Back to the Beginning: Moments
by Amanda
Rating: NC-17

Disclaimer #1: No copyright infringement intended to Joss, ME, FOX, WB, UPN, etc, etc. Just borrowing, no malice intended. Yeah I snagged a few lines directly from the show, I needed them, I didn't write them. okay?
Disclaimer #2: The line from bladerunner. It belongs to Philip K. Dick the original writer and all the folks who made the movie - don't make me look that info up.
Disclaimer #3: The name / character of "Lori Maddox" is used here just in fun, but in Real Life I own her and the crappy unpublished novels she lives in, so I disclaim to myself.
Spoilers: READ ME!! All of Season Six. If you have not seen Season Six, please don't read this yet. I would really hate to ruin any surprises for anyone, kind of like blurting out the end of a book or movie, and I'd hate myself forever if I ruined it for you. I tried to gloss over some points, just in case, but still a lot is given away. Okay, that out of the way, this starts at the end of Season 6, and is my attempt to work with the mess that they left us with, and bring back the one we all really want - FAITH.
Note of importance: There will be little to no Spike and the results of what happened in the last episode of Season 6. I just can't even go there, and he needs to stay away....
Author's Notes: If it is written in italics it is the characters thoughts. (Or dreams, but you can figure those out) < > denotes flashbacks. (I normally don't do flashbacks, but these seemed needed.)
Feedback: Yes please! I mean if you want, that is if you have time, erm.

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe... all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain."
~bladerunner

*****

The morning light, growing brighter over the city of Sunnydale was beautiful. The birds singing in the trees, the coolness in the air, the smog, not yet having made its way into this berg from the nearby metropolis of Los Angeles. This place, with the trees full of new summer life, leaves a myriad of colors, accented by the lush green of the lawns. It looked like an oasis, a sanctuary, not the foreboding place she hunted at night. Not a cemetery. She had never really appreciated it before. Maybe it only seemed so much lovelier because everything was wonderful on this morning. Everything seemed more vivid to Buffy Summers because she was alive, truly alive and feeling it in every part of her being. She hadn't felt this real, this good since before she had died, the last time.

Clearly Willow had been stopped; they were alive, and seeing the new morning. But where was she? And where was Xander? Buffy knew it was her Duty to find them both, and protect them, but she didn't want to leave the cemetery. She wanted to stay here, feeling the beauty of the morning, letting it fill her, before she went off in search of them. Buffy wanted to keep the darkness away, keep away the reality that the woman who looked after all of them was dead, that her best friend tried to end the world, and that her best friend had murdered a man.

It had all changed. So much in a few days, so much had changed. Now dear sweet Willow had joined the Slayers in the darkness. She had killed a human. Just like Buffy, and just like Faith.

Dawn squeezed her hand tighter, possibly sensing the darkness, the melancholy that was overtaking her sister, and Buffy, ever appreciative, squeezed back. She looked again, down at the hand in hers, the hand of her sister. The person beside her was her sister. No longer were there the nagging thoughts in the back of her mind that this was a ball of energy, that this was just a Key in human guise. The love she felt, the bond they shared, the memories and the moments, no matter that they were once false, now Buffy believed in them. She was no longer something mystical, and different. Sure Dawn was special, but she was special because she was her sister, and Buffy loved her. She had vowed, as they stood in the cavern surrounded by death and dirt, that she would live, and that Dawn would live beside her. The girl had shocked Buffy with her abilities, and her "What, you think I didn't watch you?" Little Dawn wasn't little anymore. She was blossoming into a woman, a woman who had seen things, lived through things that no one her own age would ever understand. Her big sister was the Slayer, and she saved the world. A lot. Buffy had a thousand things to make up for, and she wasn't going to wait. She was starting today.

This was their moment, the world's moment, to appreciate everything, to appreciate being alive. Never during the years that Buffy Summers was the Slayer did she ever believe the world could have truly ended, not as she did this morning, knowing that the fate of the world rested in the hands of Willow.

There had been truth to all that had happened, all the words that had been exchanged since the darkness took over the red head, biting truth, that Buffy would have to face, and she would, after this moment.

Days later...

Curled in the chair, legs tucked under her, she watched him. Watched the rise and fall of his chest saw the cuts and the bruises. The thought that Willow had done that to him, those cuts and bruises. That the petite red head had been strong enough to hurt him so badly; that for a few moments, Anya swore that he was going to die. But some how, for some reason, he had been spared. And Buffy was thankful to whomever that he had. He looked young, curled on the couch just a few feet from her. Seeing him had made Buffy realize how very much she missed her Watcher, how the months that had passed without him seemed lacking. He was the constant of the group, the voice of reason. And then he had left, though she had been far too caught up in her own world of self-pity to realize it. But it was painfully clear now. In the training room, as she poured out to him the events that had taken place, as she had spoken with downcast eyes, so ashamed of her actions, ashamed of what her life had become, she was waiting for this surrogate Father to condemn her. But instead she was given laughter. At the absurdity of it all, he provided her a moment to laugh. And laugh they did. Even with Tara ripped from them, even with Willow a murdering-hell-bent-on-destroying-the-world Wicca, they had laughed.

"It is not polite to stare." He whispered, his eyes still closed, and Buffy leaned forward.

"Can I get you anything?" She whispered. Though there was no need. The house was empty, only the two of them. Dawn was at school, and Willow was back at her parent's house, unable to even come near this home, her home. Buffy was convinced that Willow would never live here again, and that broke her heart. But she did not fault the girl, Buffy could not get close to that bedroom, even now, days after the event, she could go nowhere near that room. The pain and simply, the agony of knowing that Tara was gone was almost too much for even Buffy to bare. And so she chose not to think about it, filing the pain away, telling herself that she would deal with it later, when everyone else was better.

"I am fine, Buffy. Though still a little sore." He moaned slightly, sitting up and opening his eyes. "I truly have been enough of a burden on you already, staying here for so long." He smiled gently at her.

"No. No Giles. You need your rest. Besides, you can stay here with us for as long as you want." She hoped that he would stay, and kept pressing him over the past two days while he was recovering. Buffy could not imagine him leaving again.

"I am not needed here anymore, Buffy. This is no longer my place."

"But it can be, I mean. I-" She stood up slowly, beginning to pace. "I need you Giles." She said softly, stopping to look back at him.

"No, it is not me you need."

"I am not strong enough to fix all of this myself." She sighed, fighting back the tears. She had no real idea where to even start to repair the damage of the past year, let alone the past week.

"Not by yourself Buffy. You need to learn to rely on those around you. They will give you the support that you need." He said.

"Really?" She scoffed. "A devastated witch who is fighting a black magic addiction and heart break after nearly ending the world? A confused teenager, and a guy who needs to be reminded to shower because he is so devastated that his ex-vengeance demon girlfriend is back to being a demon? We are all completely broken, how in the world can we even attempt to fix this?" She asked.

"You only look at the negative, and rightly so, Buffy, I am not saying that your concerns are invalid, I am merely stating that you are a family, and you need every member of the family to get through this." He caught her eye. "Every member."

Buffy squinted, looking at him. "Who do you mean?"

"There is someone out there who needs you just as much as you need her." Giles said softly. Buffy rolled her eyes, not even needing a moments contemplation to know exactly who he was talking about.

"Why would I need her?"

"Think of her past, Buffy. Think of what you know and everything that she has gone through." Buffy looked at him quizzically, sitting back down. "You do know, don't you?"

"Um, no?" She volunteered.

"Buffy. She has killed humans, out of malice, who better to help Willow over come what she is feeling now that the magic is out of her system. Her parents are dead, who better to help you come to terms with being on your own, completely? Her heart has been broken by foolish mistakes that she has made, who better to teach Xander how to love again?" Giles said all of this softly, watching Buffy's face. He was rewarded, by her lips forming an 'oh' and her eyes shimmering with understanding. "You see Buffy, you do not need me. You need, well, a little faith." He could not help his grin at the way that had sounded.

"I just don't think that I can." She stood again, mind reeling. How could she go to her sister Slayer and demand help. Faith had always affected Buffy; even from the first moment the two had locked eyes in that alley. There was always something there, something palpable between them. But in Buffy's mind the damage had been done a long time ago, and there was no way that she would make the first step to fix it. "She hurt all of us so much."

"And you did not hurt her in kind?" Giles asked softly.

"Never!" Buffy hissed.

"Leaving her alone, in prison, without contact from anyone for three years, Buffy." He said softly.

"She has Angel." She snapped.

"Do you know that for certain?" Giles knew the truth; neither Angel nor Buffy had made attempts at contacting the girl.

"No." She said, suddenly ashamed. "But, but the things that she did!"

"Buffy, you told her to go to jail, to repent. She did. We all know that Faith did not have to, she could have disappeared, but she did not. She did as you asked. Don't you think she has had enough?"

"She killed people Giles!" Buffy clung to her last defense, her only defense, but felt her insides twisting as she said the words. She knew she should have held her tongue, Buffy could hear his response before his lips opened.

"And you have not?" Ouch. She felt in his tone, and saw it in his eyes, the truth that he alone knew, and occasionally reminded her of. She was a killer as well. "She killed two, perhaps three people. How many did you kill Buffy?" His tone was biting.

"I had no choice."

"When it comes to taking a human life there are choices. You think we all didn't see what you did? Let me tell you Buffy, we did see it; we just justified it as you are now. Oh, it was in the heat of battle, there was no choice. Perhaps that was what Faith felt as well. The difference between you two was knowledge, experience. You killed and you knew exactly what you were doing, being a woman of twenty years. Can the same be said for the child of sixteen that Faith was at the time?" He was standing now, towering over her.

"You have wanted this from the beginning." She hissed.

"Yes!" He laughed. "I never wanted her to go to jail. That was your decree."

"I don't think that I can go to her, and and," she faltered, "And she won't want to see me."

"I would hope that she does not make this easy on you. Faith has made steps to atone for her actions, you never did. It is time you start."

"No."

"Learn humility, Buffy. Learn that this is not just about you. What about them?"

"Please, seeing her would push them both over the edge." She scoffed.

"Do you really think so? Don't you see, you could tell them all what to do and what to expect and they will follow you. You are the heart and the strength of the family."

"No. That was Tara." Buffy snapped, and walked out the front door. She needed to stop his voice, stop the internal voice that was telling her he was right. She needed to just stop it all.

*****

Pears. Gotta love them, though not sure why I do. Maybe it's the skin, kind banged up, hard. You really have to force your teeth through the skin, but when you do it is worth it. Kinda like me, or so I like to think. Lots of scars, rough on the outside. Then once you bite through, the sweetness of it, the juice that just jumps out at you. Plus the fact that you can eat the whole thing if you really wanted to, just ravage it. Yeah. I like pears. They remind me a little of me.

I am eating my third one, sitting on a bench in Weaverly Park. I missed a lot of things while in jail. Pears were definitely at the top of that list. No good fruit in jail.

"Damn shame." I snickered, taking another large bite. All of jail had been a damn shame. I had confessed to the two murders, but the police and the D.A.'s office all scoffed at that, there was no longer any evidence, and me being a minor at the time; blah, blah, blah. So they decided to charge me with a couple of counts of assault. And with that I was given five years in prison, with two years of probation after. Better than a kick in the teeth, and better than life in prison, or even the needle in the arm. No, not bad at all. The five was marked down to three, and the probation knocked down to one year, and Hello World! I am out, time served, a free girl. Well some what free. Probation sounds good, but when you realize that you are forced to stay in the same state, that kind of blows. It wouldn't be too bad if Sunnydale wasn't in California, but it is.

I walked around the train station this morning, wondering where should I go. L.A. was too damn crowded, and Angel was there, and he just got on my nerves. Sure he was repenting or whatever, sure he tried to help me once, but you know, after not seeing him for three years, I really had no desire to trip the life fantastic with him. So I was thinking San Francisco, nice city.

I needed to make a stop first. Sunnydale.

I so didn't want to come here; if I ever saw that stuck-up-holier-than-thou-bitch again it would be too soon. She thought she was so much better than me, back then, on that night she wouldn't even accept my fucking apology. Well, this time I wasn't coming to apologize; I wasn't coming to make amends. Hell, I was just being courteous, letting B know I was out, and that I was moving on. She could live her life, and I would live mine.

End of story.

*****

"No. She will not be bothered by you, Bunny. You and your friends have done quite enough." The door closed sharply in her face, causing Buffy to lean back to avoid the oak door.

Shelia Rosenberg was still holding fast to the 'no one can see Willow' rule. Buffy hated it! It wasn't her fault that the Rosenberg's did not understand the physical decline in their daughter. They believed the pain and the withdrawal symptoms where due to drug use, which Buffy found ridiculous. If they would just take Willow to a doctor they would find no trace of any drugs in her system. Her body was merely reacting to the mental and spiritual pain of pushing away all of the dark magics. Willow needed help, and being cloistered in her room was not going to do that. She had to think of something, Buffy vowed to herself. She stepped off the porch, moving back to the street.

"They won't let you see her either?" Xander asked as he stepped closer to Buffy.

"No." She looked back over her shoulder at the house, feeling beaten. "You either?" She looked at Xander, seeing his unshaven face, his hair hanging, dirty over his forehead. He moved a hand through it, and then wiped the hand on his stained shirt.

"Nope. I brought her here after the, well you know, and then they kicked me out. They think it was drugs." He mumbled falling into step with the Slayer.

"Idiots." She grumbled.

"What did we expect, Buff? How could we explain that in a fit of grief she tried to destroy the world by holding in her tiny body more dark magic that anyone ever before?" He kicked at a rock.

"I know. But we have to see her." She looked up at him. "I am worried about her."

"We both know there is nowhere we can take her right now. No where free of memories." They both turned down the street heading back to the Summers' home.

"I know. I just don't like it."

"What are you going to do?" He asked.

"Do?" Buffy was lost in her thoughts, how could she bring all of them back to the happiness they had once known? She had to find a way to do it, without bringing in, ugh Faith.

"About the house. Dawn can't, Buffy, she can't stay there." He said softly, and Buffy nodded. She had noticed her sister spending time away, and the dark circles under her eyes.

"Should I sell it?" She asked him.

"I would." He shrugged back.

"I'll ask Giles." She mumbled and then stopped. She was mad at him, and had been avoiding him since that morning. "Oh, I am mad at him. Can you talk to him about it?"

"Why are you mad at Giles?"

"He wants me to go see Faith."

"Why?"

"Thinks she can help us." Buffy grumbled, still disgusted with the idea.

"I don't know how." He laughed lightly, but then shrugged. "Couldn't hurt."

"What?"

"Maybe she could help, somehow."

"You too Xander?" She looked at him dumbfounded. "You hate her!"

"All I am saying Buff is right now, this very moment, I have no idea how we can fix any of this. Maybe she can help. Different perspective." He closed his eyes. "I just, we need to fix this Buffy. I don't think I can go on like this."

She looked at him, searching his drawn and dirty face. They were all broken. Since that morning just days ago, when she felt the promise of the new day, the elation in that knowing everything was okay, and would only get better, the bottom had dropped out, and now they were all dwelling again in this darkness and misery. Maybe it was the moment for drastic measures to be taken. Buffy knew that their lives needed to change. But was she willing to take that step? To pull herself out of the comfort zone of holding in all her emotions, of keeping everything that was wrong inside of her, like it was her burden to carry and try and fix all of the world's problems? Looking at Xander, his eyes pleading with her to do something, anything, she realized. This wasn't about her, as much as it was about them, all of them. And Buffy would do anything for them.

*****

The afternoon sun felt good, and it made the cemetery look different, kind of peaceful. I was meandering around, just getting a feel for the place. I knew it was time for me to head over to B's place, to let her know I was out. Maybe we'd have a good ol' throw down in the front yard, for old times sake. I was sort of hoping she would want to battle, so I could show off my new moves, and the fact that sitting in jail lifting weights for three years could do wonders for Slayer strength. I'd knock the grin right off her face, hey, maybe even take a few of her teeth with it. Nice image.

But I wanted to check this out first. Her grave. I knew she was alive and well again, back from Heaven and all, but there was a promise I made to myself when she had died, when I felt her die, and I always kept my promises.

It was weird when she died. Sure I felt it, this rush of something. What I imagined grabbing hold of the electric fence out in the prison yard would feel like. A jolt of power that was cold and hot, hurt but didn't. Then I felt her all around me, for just a second I could have sworn she was there, and then, bam! Gone again. I felt the same. I hadn't known for sure she was dead until a few weeks later. I got a letter, one of the nicest I had ever gotten. And when I read it, when I read that Buffy Summers was actually dead I promised myself I would see her grave. For all the past, and the hatred we shared we were still connected, we were still Slayers, and I owed her my respect, and she would get it. Even though she was now alive again, I still needed to go, still needed to give her that piece of me that wanted to thank her, wanted to remember her as the Slayer she was.

I figured it would be quiet out here, middle of the afternoon, so I had no real concern about vamps or B sniffing around. I just walked around, not knowing where her grave was, just moving, and checking out the stones. Being around them all the time gives you this numbing effect, you start to think of these markers as just that, markers. You forget the bodies beneath the ground, you don't notice the ones with short lives, or long. Which ones belong to children, or adults? They are just pieces of stone now.

OH GOD NO.

I stopped, and took a step back. There was no way I just read that name. No FUCKING way! I looked down, noticing that the turf was still loose; it had not yet rooted in the turned earth. This was not possible, I thought to myself, and then kneeled down hard, feeling the jarring in my knees. I looked at the name again.

TARA MACLAY

"Tara, no." I whispered. How had this happened? This couldn't be true, I had gotten another letter from her just yesterday, telling me she was thinking about going with my advice, and just chucking all the drama and going back to Red. And that she was looking forward to seeing me. This wasn't right.

"Who are you?"

I spun hearing a voice. Looking up I saw some blonde chick, holding a bouquet of flowers to her chest, looking down on me nervously. She seemed familiar, but I couldn't place her. Maybe it was just the red dress. I loved blondes in red.

"What happened?" I asked softly, not trusting my voice, feeling my stomach wanting to rise out from inside of my body.

"She was shot." The girl said, and then kneeled next to me, setting the flowers down. It was a lovely arrangement, bright colors, and some daisies. The kind of flowers I was sure that Tara would have loved.

"No." I said touching the warm stone. My voice cracked, and I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I couldn't cry here, not here. She would understand, sweet and tender Tara, she would understand.

"Who are you?" She asked again, looking at me oddly. That was it! I knew her. She was Xander's girlfriend. "Did you know her from school? Are you a lesbian or a witch too?"

"What?" I barked, "No. You don't know me?" I asked looking at her like she was crazy.

"Should I?"

"I know you. You're Xander's girl."

"Was Xander's girl. He left me at the alter."

"What? Oh, right." I shook my head; this was all too much. I looked back to the marker with Tara's name. "What about this? Somebody shot her?"

"Yes, Warren. He was trying to kill Buffy, but Tara was hit as well."

"So this Warren killed her." I stood up, brushing my hands off on my pants. "Where is Warren?" I asked, clenching my jaw. I needed to see him, to rip his head off his shoulders. He would know true pain when I was done with him.

"Vengeance." The girl smiled up at me, "I like what I am feeling." Her smile dropped. "But unfortunately, I cannot help you. Warren is dead."

"Oh." My shoulders dropped. I had so hoped to make him suffer for taking away Tara.

"Yes, Willow skinned him alive in the woods. Very ghastly and painful way to die."

"What?" I was struck. Red had killed him?

"You asked a lot of the same questions. Do you not know any more?" She asked up at me, and I wanted to smack the look off her face, but didn't. I was trying not to kill people anymore. So instead I growled. "You are that Slayer, aren't you?" Her eyes rounded.

"Got all that from a growl?"

"Yes. Well, no. Buffy has done that before when she wants to hurt someone but knows she can't. So I figured. Yes, yes you are the other one. Faith. Xander used to talk about you." She scowled. "You knew Tara?"

"Yeah. Blondie has been writing to me since Buffy died."

"You were in prison."

I nodded.

"And now you are not."

"Right o." I smirked.

"Did you escape?"

"No. Look, I don't want to get into this on her place, okay? Is, I mean, what happened?"

"Oh. Willow." She stood. "That is a long and drawn out story. Let's go have coffee and talk it over."

*****

She hung up the phone and walked back into the living room, her face drawn. Giles looked up at her worried.

"What is it?"

"Well I can't find her." Buffy huffed. She was dejected having spent the past three hours on the telephone, looking for Faith. She could have been doing a million other things, but no, she had wasted the time on the phone looking for the psycho-Slayer.

"Why?"

"Besides the fact that I don't even know her full name? They don't have any one with the name of Faith fitting her description." Buffy sat down heavily to the chair.

"Oh, yes. Sorry. You should ask after a Maddox, Lori."

"Excuse me, what?"

"That is the name Faith is listed under."

"Listed? But then who is she? Has everything been a lie?"

"Her name is Faith. But that is all we know, unless she tells us more." He sighed, rubbing his hands over his face. Buffy wondered how much longer it would take the optometrist to get his new glasses done, the poor man was running out of nervous habits without being able to polish his glasses. "All of her records were in the possession of her Watcher, and when Kakistos attacked, and murdered her, well he burned the building to the ground. Everything was lost. The Watcher Diaries, Faith's birth certificate, fingerprints, social security cards, everything."

"What?"

"It was all to be filed with the Council. It was the first start to a new program with the Slayers. We would remove all traces of them from the records of society, to give them complete anonymity, after the problems you have had with the police, and changing technologies, the Council believed that it was truly the best way." He said softly.

"So?" How could he leave all of this information out? Buffy grumbled internally.

"So, when Faith confessed and turned herself in, she attempted to give them her true name, and they rejected it, as there was no record of her existing. Luckily Faith is a smart girl, and she came up with the pseudonym, and a false identity that she made up at the time." He rubbed his forehead. "She can walk out of prison at any time, Buffy. She just needs a change of cloths. If they stop her, they will run her fingerprints, and they will come up with a totally separate identity. Nothing is keeping her in prison but herself."

"She can just walk out. At anytime?" Buffy swallowed.

"She has stayed there, and will do so willingly until you tell her she can leave. At least that was what she told me prior to your, erm, death. Now I am not sure."

"Oh."

"It was your idea for her to go there, Buffy. She wanted to make it better, though I dare say, none of us believed she would be there for this long." He sighed. "This is your choice to make, Buffy."

"I don't think so. Not anymore. She has to make that choice now." Buffy went back to the phone, to try again.

*****

I was fidgeting. But damnit, when she said coffee, I didn't think that she would whisk me away to Hell for it! I looked around the room again. Everything was red. Not in a creepy this is Hell and blood is dripping off the walls sort of red. More like, this is a high-class bordello red. Kind of nice, if you go in for that sort of thing. I was sitting on my hands, to stop them from clutching the demon in front of me. I couldn't tell what kind it was, and this Anya seemed unfazed, as the scaly thing set down a silver coffee set on the mahogany table.

"Um, nice place?" I ventured, hoping to get her to talk. My Slayer senses were going all wacky being here, and I just wanted to know what had happened over the last five days that had Tara going from beaming in a letter about going back with Red, to being dead. I needed to know, had to get answers, because some one was going to pay for this.

"Thank you." She moved to pour the coffee. "D'Hoffryn and I go way back, and when he saw my predicament, well, he was standing right there, to see the whole debacle. He offered me my old job back, with some lovely benefits. I have a great view. Should I open the curtains?" She asked moving. I could hear the screams coming from the other side, but so did not want to watch.

"No!" I stood, and then felt foolish. "I mean, that's alright, I erm, trust you, that the view is nice."

"You are not evil." She cocked her head looking at me. "They all said that you were evil." She pursed her lips. "Another thing they lied about I see."

"I was evil." I sat back down.

"No, I don't think so. See I know evil, and you, as much as you try, are not. Confused, angry, and a little unbalanced, but not evil. I can't sense it." She sat beside me. "You knew Tara?" She asked.

I could only nod.

"She was lovely. So kind, and sweet. Pretty too. Not that I ever thought about her in a sweaty and naked way. I am all for the boys, you know." She grinned, but it slipped. "Or I was, until Xander decided he wasn't ready." Her eyes rounded. "Do you hate Xander? Do you wish that his penis would fall off and his head would explode?"

"Erm, no." I said, watching the glint in her eye appear. Oh, she said wish. "I will not make any wishes for you, Anya. I know how that works. Slayer, remember?"

"Damn!" She hissed. "Fine. So what did you want to know?"

"Can you tell me everything?" I asked. "I need to understand how everything could possibly go so wrong, that Tara could end up dead."

"Right. Well I guess I should start at the beginning." She leaned back into the couch. "So Buffy died, again,"

*****

Buffy pulled her light jacket on as she stood by the front door. Dawn was sitting on the couch staring forward at the television screen. She was afraid; she didn't want to leave Dawn here alone, not when Faith might be out there somewhere. Her luck had been out to lunch, because she spent another two hours on the phone and still was right where she started this morning. Buffy had no idea where Faith was. She never thought she would have to be afraid of Faith again, but she was. She looked over at Dawn again.

"Dawnie?"

"Hmmm." She didn't even look away from the screen.

"Want to come on patrol with me?" Buffy asked, softly, wondering what her sister would say.

"Really?" Dawn looked away from the television, turning her head, to look over at Buffy. "You are just afraid to let me stay here by myself." Dawn huffed.

"I want to see where you are. So when we start training." Buffy started, and the young girl jumped off the couch.

"Training!" Dawn exclaimed.

"I meant what I said that day, Dawn. So do you want to come?" Buffy hoped so. She wanted to see her sister in action, and wanted to get the girl out of the house, to forget for a few hours the darkness of their lives.

*****

"Oh my! I need to get back." Anya jumped up.

My head was spinning. So much to process. Sure Tara had filled me in on some things that had been happening, in her letters to me. But now I knew all that she had left out. Important and crazy stuff. B was screwing a -

"Back?" I asked.

"To reality. Damn I always forget!" She exclaimed.

"Forget?"

"Time moves slower here. You know, this being Hell and all, needed to make it last longer, the pain and the torment. In some hell dimensions the time is faster, but here, slower."

"Which means what?" I asked, scrunching my forehead.

"Is being slow a pre-requisite for a Slayer?"

"Watch it Blondie!" I hiss standing up, and she actually took a step back.

"Sorry. Erm, for every hour here, it is a day there, in Sunnydale. So I've been gone two days."

"Oh."

"Right, so we need to be getting us back there."

"Actually Anya, I want to see our buddy Warren."

*****

Yesterday was Dawn's last day of school, and the start of summer. They had been going on patrol together the last few nights, though there were few vamps around, she had seen Dawn fight, and saw that the young Summers' girl was filled with rage. Buffy needed to get Dawn an outlet for it, she didn't want her sister looking for an outlet on her own. Buffy knew all to well the wrong ways to express rage; she had seen it first hand. So they had decided to start training, every other day.

Both girls had been packing up the Summers' home through that week, intent on moving out. They both knew and understood without having to discuss it that this was for the best, neither could conceive of living in this house another day with the memories that now lived in the back bedroom.

"So where will we go?" Dawn asked her sister as she watched her putting more clothes into a suitcase.

"I don't know. But we can't live here, Dawnie."

"I know. It is like everything is worse now. With Mom and Tara-"

"I know. Giles is helping to sell this place and getting us another. Did you like the one I was telling you about at breakfast?" Buffy asked, looking up while brushing her hair from her face.

"Sounds okay." Dawn shrugged, she vaguely recalled the conversation. But she did know that no home would be ready tonight, but Buffy was set on them being out of the house. "What will we do until then?"

"I'm not sure, I just know we need to get out of here." Buffy shrugged. "Let's finish up, and then head over to the Magic Box, see how Giles is coming along."

*****

"I just can't find her." Buffy moaned as she walked out of the training room, Xander on her heels. She had finished training for the day. Dawn and Giles were looking at a house. It was small, and in the not so good part of town, but it was affordable, and kind of cute. Buffy hoped Dawn liked it, because she was tired of sleeping on Xander's couch. And it had only been two nights.

"She couldn't have just disappeared." He volunteered.

"Who?" Anya asked, as she materialized behind the cash register.

"Do you have to do that?" Xander grumbled under his breath. Anya hadn't been there earlier when they came in. He was still having a hard time getting used to all of her Demony powers. "Faith. We think she escaped, she's not in jail." Xander said, startled.

"No, she was released, good behavior, time served." Anya said casually, counting the money in the drawer.

"Huh?" Xander asked, for both he and Buffy.

"Yes. It is all legitimate."

"Okay don't know how you know, but where is she?" Buffy asked.

"At my place."

"You don't have a place." Xander said.

"Sure I do. It happens to be in hell. Nice little place. D'Hoffryn was trying to make me happy. I have a lovely view of the Sea of Mad-"

"An, why is Faith at your place?" Xander broke into her explanation.

"I found her in the cemetery, at Tara's grave. Did you know that they were friends? She was confused, I took her home, explained everything, and now she is visiting Warren."

"In hell." Buffy asked, sitting down heavily on a chair.

"Yes, where else?"

"Am I the only one wigging'?" Buffy asked, and Xander shook his head. "Why did she get to go to hell, to him?"

"She asked," Anya said.

"Oh." Buffy dropped her eyes.

"So she is torturing him?"

"I assume so. She was very upset that Willow took his life. She is worried about Willow, and is trying to get him to accept her as his killer."

"Faith?"

"Yes. So he will not call Willow to hell when she dies."

"Call?"

"Right." She sighed and looked between the two of them. "There is this little clause for murdered humans. Most don't know about it, but Faith figured that Warren might, having known so much about other mystical things. The clause states that when your killer dies, regardless of what they may have done in life to repent, you can call them to hell, to be your slave in hell for a thousand years. Sort of like, you got me once, but I'll get your worse, sort of thing."

"Okay, did you know about this creepy clause?" Xander asked turning to look at Buffy.

"I guess I forgot to read that chapter of the handbook." Buffy mumbled.

"Yes, well, Faith knows about the clause. She is hoping to break the bond Warren may have with Willow, so he can never call her to hell. I mean, sure she killed him, but she was grieving and hopped up on the dark magic dragon, so she won't automatically be sent to hell."

"So Faith can be called instead?" Xander asked, sitting down.

"Right. Faith figures she is going to go to hell anyway, what is a thousand years of belonging to Warren to her."

"It scares me, your lack of emotion." Xander mumbled.

"I am a demon again, Xander. You above all others should know. You did this to me."

*****

"It was an accident. I was only trying to kill the Slayer. Not her," he ask chained against the stonewall. For Hell this placed looked a little like a B-movie back lot torture chamber, not the fiery pits of hell. But, didn't bother me. I wasn't here for the ambiance; I was here to do some business.

"You still killed. Even if by accident. Still hurts, will still haunt you, and you will still have to deal. You took a life, and not just any life, but the most important, pure soul I have ever known. I will make you wish for death again for what you did." I grabbed his chin in my hand as I spoke, watching his eyes widen.

"If you hurt me you will end up here too." Ah. He was trying to be so strong, so brave.

"Baby, I already have my ticket for this place, so don't you worry." I tapped his nose.

"So you and the Red witch can bond in hell with me," he was loosing his smirk. I liked that.

"Oh, no. Red ain't coming here."

"She murdered me, of course she is."

"Naw, what Red did, it was justified. It was your time, and she was just the tool. No harm no foul. Will not show on her permanent record. But you and me? We're gonna get cozy." Warren's eyes widened as he saw the large knife appear in my hand. "You've already been flayed, but how do you feel about organ donation? Let's open you up and see what you've got."

*****

"You need to get her back here, and right now, Anya!" Buffy exclaimed, jumping up from her chair. Buffy knew, that if Faith let herself go in Hell, the darkness would over take her again. Buffy may have failed Faith in the past, but she wasn't about to do that again. And certainly not if Giles was right, and she was the only one who could help Willow and Xander.

*****

I was suddenly back in the graveyard, looking down at my hand, where I expected to see the knife slicing into Warren's gut.

"What the fuck!" I yelled, spinning around. Anya was standing there, her arms crossed. "I was just getting started Blondie! Send me back!" She took a step closer to me, looking over my face.

"Can't. Buffy didn't want you to do it."

"So fucking what? When do I ever do what she wants?" I growled.

"I think I was wrong to take you to him in the first place." Anya shrugged.

"You knew what I was doing." I mumbled; angry that I hadn't been able to follow through on all of the blood curdling thoughts I was having, of the sweat violence that I was going to do to that scared little man. I was still feeling a little high from the thoughts, I took a deep breath, trying to push it all away, the red haze that I had let flit through my head.

"I think Willow is safe from him. And maybe Buffy was right. You shouldn't become indebted to him. He is rather vicious. Or at least, he had hoped to be."

"All the more-"

"No. It is done."

"Where is she?" I asked, crossing my arms.

"Magic Box." Anya shrugged, "Where I should be. Will you be coming?" I thought about that. Should I go and see B now? I looked at the ground, seeing Tara's marker.

"No. I, I need some time." I said softly, looking down. I needed to think about Tara. I needed to remember her again.

<She was sitting, right there. She looked so different then the way I remembered her, the way I imagined her when I sat in my cell reading the letters that came from her each week without fail. Her hair was up, a sign that the shy nervous girl had grown up. This was a beautiful woman sitting in front of me. Even with the glass separating us I could feel her strength, her calm. Maybe it was a Slayer thing. But I could feel her, like she was all around me, calming any of my anger and nerves. Her blue eyes were searching my face.

"Why did you come?" I asked.

"Thought it was time. Why don't you write back, Faith?"

"You don't want that."

"How do you know what I want?" She asked, with a lopsided grin. Yeah, I misjudged this one. She had hidden depths I never imagined. She was nothing like I thought, the shy plaything for Red. She was so much more. I shrugged. "Do you want me to stop writing you?"

"No!" I exclaimed, and then looked down at my clasped hands becoming solely focused on the short nails, bitten to the quick in nervousness waiting for her to come. "I mean, it's up to you. Whatever you want."

"Stop pretending, Faith. I know you are lonely. I know what that is like. I have been there too."

"But not anymore."

"No, not right now. But soon, I think. I will be alone again." She frowned.

"I didn't want them to know." I whispered, hating to see that frown.

"Who?"

"B and Red. I didn't want them to know you were writing to me, didn't want to cause you any problems."

"This is my life." She said strongly. Oh, yeah I liked this one. "Write me back Faith." She slipped a piece of paper to me. "Send your letters here."

"Okay." I took the piece of paper. "But why?"

"You need someone. And well," she laughed softly. "I need to be needed.">

"Where will you be?" Anya asked, bringing me back to the here and now. "I know Buffy will ask, and she always gets uppity when I don't know everything."

"I will come find her when I am ready." I looked back down at the grave, feeling the rolling anger in me again, but for no one other than myself, that I was not here to protect her. "Tell her not to worry, I am not out to hurt her, or any of the Scoobies." I shrugged.

"So you aren't back to kill them all?"

"No." I laughed at her tone. She really thought that was my master plan in all this? "That's not my thing anymore."

"They are all broken you know. After what happened, and what Willow did." Anya sighed. "They will never get over this."

"Ah, all they need is a little faith."

*****

"Did she say where she was going?" Buffy asked the moment Anya teleported back into the Magic Box.

"No, and I asked, knowing that you would harass me, but she refused. She is stubborn. Especially for a Slayer." Anya snapped.

*****

He was sitting in the leather chair, looking out the window. He had heard her come in, but didn't feel the need to turn around. Not when the night's sky was so beautiful. Bolts of lightening lit up the Dallas skyline. He adored Texas, with its tumultuous weather.

"We have found it." She said, her voice raspy, like the wind through the trees.

"Where?"

"Sunnydale, California." He scrunched his features, bringing his thick black brows down close to his equally black eyes. He hated California.

"Are we sure, this time?" He asked, not wanting to have to travel out there for a hunch.

"Yes. It has been partially closed, but we think-"

"We will not move forward on a guess. Do you understand? I need to know for certain. Send someone, make sure." He snapped.

"Yes Sir."

*****

I started walking out of the cemetery, heading for the motel, but then stopped, a memory flashing through my mind.

<I gripped the phone so tightly I heard the black plastic crack; taking a breath I loosened my hand. It hurt me so much to hear the pain in her voice, as she sobbed.

"Tara, please, what happened?"

"She, she, oh God Faith! I can't believe what she did!"

"What can I do? If you need me, give me a day and I will be there." I whispered. I would walk right out of here if it would help ease her pain, like she had done for me over the past few months.

"You, you can do that?" her voice hitched with a hiccup.

"For you, sure."

"N-n-no, I c-couldn't ask for that. I-I should not have called."

"Tara, baby, no, if you need something," damn, I slipped. I hadn't meant to call her that. Willow called her that. Now she was sobbing even harder.

"Willow put a spell on me." She sobbed. "I had to leave, but but I have n-n-no where to go."

"Tara, there is always somewhere to go. I can't talk long." I looked at the guard who was tapping her watch at me. "Listen. Are you listening to me?"

"Y-yes."

"Take down this address. It's for my apartment. You can stay there. The key is above the doorframe, okay? You go there."

"I can't Faith."

"You will. Now here is the address, you call me tomorrow, and tell me you are okay. If you don't call I will come looking for you."

"Okay.">

I turned and headed for the apartment. She had lived there, and right now I needed to be close to her, as close as I could ever get again.

Walking through alleys, the setting sun was still too bright right now for my eyes. I didn't want to admit that my mind is spinning with everything that Anya told me, didn't want to admit that I felt tears sitting there in my eyes, waiting to fall. I just don't cry. Doesn't mean I don't feel, just means I'm not weak enough to cry. Not now, not even for Tara.

She was the best thing that ever happened to me. Out of the blue she was there, offering her friendship to me, wanting nothing really in return. After all that I had done to Red, and the Gang, it was like that didn't matter to Tara, she was more concerned with me, and how I was doing. And that was the fucking crazy part. Who would reach out to a psycho bitch that pretty much tried to kill all of your friends, who embarrassed you in public? Not many people, and no one that I had ever met before. But she did. What was in her that made her do that? Now I will never get the chance to know, to find out. All that I will have are the moments, those memories of her, and they have to be carried with me. I would keep them safe inside my heart. Yeah I have one. I would remember those moments when I feel lower than low, when I feel like shit. I will revel that someone thought there was enough good in me to reach out. To try.

I kicked an empty bottle, as I came around the back alley of the apartment building. Man, this neighborhood went to shit. It used to be nice, kinda classy. But not now. Evening was calling, and the girls of the night were appearing on corners, looking lost and used. One girl was leaning against the side of building beside the door. Her leather skirt was short, leaving nothing to the imagination. Her stomach was bare until the red halter covered her chest. As I walked past her, she tossed her black hair over her shoulder. She was looking; I could feel her light blue eyes moving over me. What did I look like to her, in worn leather pants, black tank, and dirty denim jacket? Who was I trying to kid? I knew exactly what I looked like to her. I looked hot as hell, and men and women fell to their knees begging me for the ability to touch me. I snickered to myself. Yeah she was looking.

"You feeling lonely?" She asked, as I took the doorknob in my hand. I turned my head ever so slightly, looking her over. She was young, and pretty, rare for a Sunnydale prostitute. The young ones usually went to LA, learning that they didn't live long here.

"No." I said softly, opening the door. And I wasn't. I didn't pay for it, got paid once or twice, but I never paid. And besides, I was feeling a little down, and didn't want that to cheer me up. I wanted to feel down.

"You live here?"

"Sort of." I said, and wanted to just leave, but turned back to her. "You shouldn't be out here."

"Hmm?" She pushed off the wall and ran her hand over my shoulder, down my arm. "It's safe here."

"No, there are things that,"

"I know all about that. A lady that lives here did something, so only humans can come onto this block." She smiled, running her hand over my arm again. But I was too shocked to move away. There was just enough pressure in her touch to make me for a second realize how long it had been since someone had touched me. Too long. I sighed, but then replayed what she said in my mind.

"Tara?" I asked.

"You know her?" Her eyes widened and she smiled. "Have you seen her? It's been a week since she has been home." She looked genuine, and for a second I was conflicted. The old Faith would blurt out that Tara was dead, just to watch the agony on this girl's face. But I couldn't do that; I wouldn't use Tara's memory for that.

"She won't be coming back here." I said moving away.

"Oh." Then she smiled brighter. "She is back with Willow?"

"Something like that." I shrugged, moving to the door again.

"You're Faith, aren't you? The Slayer." She said, and I spun, pinning her to the wall, my forearm across her throat.

"Who told you that?"

"Tara." She said softly, tears in her icy blue eyes. I loosened my hold, but didn't let go. "She said we looked a little bit alike. And that you lived here, and might come back. She said you were nice."

"Well, looks like she lied a little bit, don't it." I sneered.

"Um, well."

"Just keep your mouth shut. Don't be telling anyone you saw me, don't tell them what you think you know." I hissed.

"Fine. But she said I could trust you, and she wouldn't lie."

"So you two were close huh? She pay you for what you did?"

"No." She tried to shake her head. "She would talk to me, let me talk to her. But nothing else ever happened. I tried to, you know, repay her once, and she told me no." The girl looked stunned when she said that. It probably was something she had never heard before, being told no.

"Uh, huh." I moved away from her, brushing off my jacket. "Just stay away from me," I opened the door, and over my shoulder added, "and be safe." The door slammed behind me.

*****

"She will come when the time is right." Giles said, cleaning his glasses.

"What time? What is she plotting now?" Xander asked. "Planning on killing us all."

"No," Anya said. "I asked if she was going to, and she said no." The vengeance demon shrugged. "Though I don't know why." She mumbled under her breath.

"Maybe she is afraid, you know, that you will finish her off, Buff?"

<"You can't win this." Buffy said to her, the voice was Faith's own, the face Faith's own.

"Shut up! Do you think I'm afraid of you? You're nothing. Disgusting. Murderous bitch. You're nothing. I hate you. You're disgusting." Punches raining down, violently lashing out, not at Buffy, but at the vision of herself, Faith was filled with so much self-hatred. Buffy could feel the internal pain of the other girl.>

"No. She isn't afraid of me, she never was." Buffy mumbled.

"Perhaps she was close to Tara?" Giles offered.

"No way." Xander said.

"No, they were. She was fighting not to cry at her grave. She did not know Tara was dead." Anya said, locking the register. "I think she needs time to mourn."

"But, how could. What?" Xander floundered.

"It does make sense." Giles mumbled.

"What?" Buffy asked.

"Nothing." He replaced his glasses and moved away.

"No nothing. You can't just say, 'nothing'." Buffy moved after him.

"Buffy, whatever happened between the two of them-"

"Whoa there! Nothing happened between them!" Xander exclaimed. "Tara would never do that to Wills."

"I meant nothing of the sort Xander." Giles snapped. "We all know how Tara was. It just seems logical for her to reach out to Faith when Buffy passed."

Xander stood. Looking confused.

"Did anyone think to tell Faith that Buffy had died?" Giles asked.

"Um, no?" Xander shrugged.

"But she knew. When I contacted her, she told me she knew. I am sure that it was Tara who did that, did it for Faith and for Buffy." He said. "Now, Buffy, we really must be going, to get to the bank to sign the final papers on the house." He pulled on his coat.

"House, right." Buffy said.

*****

The breath came out of my mouth before I could compose myself enough to stop it. The apartment looked nothing like it used to when it was my sanctuary. I closed the door behind me, stepping deeper into the room. The smell of sage and incense, faint, maybe a week old, but I could still pick it up in here. Everything was so very, well, Tara. Or at least what I imagined her to be like. I hated to admit it, even to myself that I never knew her beyond letters and the few phone calls and visits.

I walked over to the alcove that held the bed, seeing the exotic fabrics that covered the bed, the reds and golds. It was beautiful. Hanging over the bed on the ceiling were fairy lights. I clicked them on, seeing the soft light covering the bed. I felt my lips curling in a smile, as I ran my fingers over the fabric. This was Tara all right. I lifted the picture frame from beside the bed. It was the two of them, her and Red, arms around their waists. God they looked so happy. I set the picture down, and walked back into the living room. Beside the television there was a new bookshelf, and I noticed that in the bottom corner were stacks of comics. My comics. I smiled again. She was always able to make me smile. What I would have given to been able to come back here, to spend time with Tara.

She made me love her. Not in a sexual way, in a big sisterly way. She looked out for me, even though I didn't think I wanted her to. But she did, she brought out the best in me, I think. And now, like everyone else in my life I had cared about, she was gone.

I moved into the kitchen, opening the cabinets. More Tara. Teas, and weird vegan foods. Shit I bet tasted like cardboard, man how could she eat this? I wondered holding a box of crisps. I shook my head and set it down. I leaned against the counter, crossing my arms and looking around again.

I didn't belong here. This was Tara's place, and now, now....

"This should be Red's place." I said softly. I would look for somewhere else to stay tomorrow, and then I would figure out a way to get Red to come here.

*****

"So this is it, huh?" Dawn asked standing in the front room, looking around at the aged wallpaper, seeing the scuffed hardwood floors.

"Yeah. This is it." Buffy added, crossing her arms, and wondering for the 100th time if this really was a good idea. "It'll be fine, just needs a few things. But it has the basement, and the two bedrooms upstairs." She set her chin on Dawn's shoulder, looking at the empty room with her. "It's just enough for us, Dawn. I promise, that we can make this work."

"Okay." Dawn turned and smiled at her sister. "It's not too bad."

"No." Buffy smiled back. "It isn't."

*****

She was sitting on the bed, and my head was in her lap. Slowly she was racking her fingers through my hair. The feeling of calm and comfort enveloped me in a way that I have never really known before.

"Is this a dream?" I asked, turning so I could look up at her. There was blood on her chest, and her skin was so pale, just like the dead, just like a vampire.

"Sort of." She grinned.

"I am so sorry, Tara." I sobbed.

"There was nothing you could have done. Nothing any one could have done."

"God, I needed you to be here. Did I ever tell you how much you meant to me? I wanted to repay you."

"Hmm?"

"You became my family..." I sighed. "I should have done something for you."

She moved her fingers over my face. "You gave me the best gift, do you know that Faith?"

"Me? I never gave anyone anything."

"Oh, but you are wrong. You gave me the sweetest memories. And Willow too. Because I listened to you, I went back to her. I pushed away the doubt, and the pettiness. I went to her, baring my heart, offering her my soul. And she took it. She held me, and made love to me. My Willow made me feel whole again. And I went that night because of you. You told me not to waste a moment, not to wait until tomorrow, and I didn't." Gently she kissed my forehead. "I am in a better place now, but they need you Faith. They need you like I needed you."

"They don't."

"Yes, yes they do. You have so much inside you. You are a survivor Faith. You are so strong, and have forced yourself to keep on living, even after everything that has happened in your life, through all of those terrible moments, you choose to live." Her fingers in my hair. "Willow is dying. If she isn't helped soon," Tara's voice cracked. "Faith did you love me?"

"Yes." I admitted softly, ashamed that I did, ashamed that I never told her. She was the sister I never had.

"If you truly loved me, you will help them now. Make them listen, make them learn. They need you, and you need them. Rebuild my family, Faith. Do it for them, and do it for you."

I sat up in the bed, smelling her all around me. My cheeks were still warm, from where her fingers had been.

My mind was full. It was too much, and I was not able to pluck any one thought down and follow through. I ran my finger over my bottom lip. Back and forth, right to left. Fingers moving off my lips to my chin, then my neck. The moment was here. It was decision time.

*****

"Who are you?" Shelia Rosenberg asked, holding the door, looking down on the young woman before her. She had dark hair, up in a conservative bun, glasses over the bridge of her nose. Her hands were clasp in front of her, at the waist of her long skirt.

"Professor Rosenberg?" The girl asked in a lovely accented voice.

"Yes."

"Thank goodness." She extended her hand. "I am Lori Maddox. I was a friend of Willow's, before I moved to Boston, to attend BU. You taught there last year, for a semester."

"Yes, I did." The older woman beamed suddenly.

"I know. I loved your thesis on the Archetypical American Feminist and her identity crisis at the turn of the century." She smiled.

"Well, that is -"

"But I am here for Willow. The minute I heard I knew I needed to come. You see I specialize in her type of case."

"Oh?"

"Yes, I am working towards my doctorate focusing in psychological neurosis of addiction and grief. Perfect you see. I would love to be able to help Willow."

"Do you know Alex and Bunny?"

"Who? I am sorry, but I only knew Willow when I was here."

"I see. Do you really think you can help her?"

"I am sure of it. Can I come by later tonight? I think a fast break is best. I will come, get her and we will go. There is a home in Arizona, where they specialize."

"This is wonderful, I do have a conference I must get to."

"Let me not keep you. I will come by tonight for Willow."

*****

Buffy sat on the front porch, watching the evening darken. Still no sign of Faith. She had been in town three days, and she had not yet shown up for a confrontation. That was so un-Faith like, which left Buffy confused.

She expected something, either a fight, or a cringing Faith on her knees begging for forgiveness. But this, this, nothing. It was something she had never expected, and she was unsure what she was supposed to do? Was she supposed to seek her out?

"Buffy." Giles said as he came up the front walk. She slowly raised her head, looking at him. He seemed much better, the limp was nearly gone.

"Hey."

"What's wrong?" He asked, leaning on the rail beside her.

"Where is she? I am wound so tight, waiting for her to jump out at any second."

"I see, yes. Well she will be by later."

"What?"

"Yes, I saw her on the street, and she asked where she could find you. Appears she went to the old house last night, but no one was there."

"Oh." Buffy looked at her hands. "Did she say why she was coming?"

"Erm, no." He sat down beside her. "I called the Council this evening."

"Yeah? And what did they say?" She asked, leaning against the handrail, looking at him.

"They know she was released, and guessed that she was coming here." He sighed, rubbing his hands on his corduroy pants.

"Are they going to send another team to get her?" Buffy asked, part of her hoping that they would, getting rid of the problem that was Faith so she wouldn't have to. But another part of her, granted a smaller part, wished they wouldn't.

"Some what." He looked at her. "Buffy, you do realize that the Council does have a place in the Slayer's life. Regardless that you closed them out, there serve a purpose."

"Watching the action from their safe little houses in England." She mumbled.

"Generals very rarely are part of the actual combat, Buffy."

"Whatever." She grumbled. The Council, calling the shots but not understanding what it was like to be right there, in the thick of it, covered in God knows what, killing the bad beasties of the night.

"They seem to believe that killing Faith might not be the only solution." He smiled, "They are sending a team here to test her, to see if she is redeemable."

"Will they go all Clockwork Orange on her?"

"Um, pardon?"

"You know, try and wipe her mind clean? That was what they were all gung-ho for last time. To make her pay for her crimes and turn her into the 'tool'."

"I don't think that they would go to that extent." His face did not look completely certain, and Buffy filed that little tidbit away for later. "No, I am sure that they would not. They just need to see where she is, mentally."

"Um, here let me save them the trip, she is a fucking wacko."

"Buffy." He sighed. "This is important, not just for the Council, but I think for Faith as well. If all goes as I hope, this may just give her the sense of belonging that she has craved since the beginning."

"We gave that to her before."

"No, Buffy you didn't. You used her when it suited you. And well, she acted accordingly. You treated her like she was the second best Slayer."

"Hello, she is the second best Slayer!" Buffy snapped, and stood up, leaving him on the porch, as she slammed the door behind her.

*****

The French door was pushed open, and the sheer curtains billowed out into the room, and stepping in from the darkness, was Faith. Her brown eyes glowing in the evening light.

Willow thought she was dreaming again, having another one of the continual nightmares that were plaguing her. That was until she saw Faith frown, and heard her voice.

"I know it's too late for some things Red, but not this."

<"Oh yeah, give me the speech again please. Faith we're still your friends we can help you, it's not too late." Faith had rolled her eyes, sneering.

"It's way too late. You know it didn't have to be this way, but you made your choice. I know you had a tough life, I know that some people think you had a lot of bad breaks. Well boo-hoo, poor you. You know, you had a lot more in your life than some people. I mean you had friends like Buffy. Now you have no one. You were a slayer and now you're nothing. You're just a big selfish, worthless waste." Willow snapped back, shocking herself as much as Faith with the conviction of her words.

Shrugging Faith replied, "You hurt me, I hurt you. I'm just a little more efficient.">

Willow replayed the moment in her mind, when she had said those things, sure, fearing for her life, but knowing that Faith needed to hear them. But what now? Faith was standing there, at the foot of her bed, hands on her leather-encased hips.

"What?" Willow asked slowly, licking her dry lips, and praying that however Faith was going to kill her that she do it quick.

"You don't belong here, and I am taking you away." Faith stepped forward, and pulled back the blankets, slowly, almost tenderly. Willow watched Faith's brown eyes round, and then her forehead furrow as she looked over Willow's thin body. "Oh, Willow." She said softly, her voice catching in her throat. Faith's lips thinned as she pressed them together. She slipped her arms under the girl and lifted her easily.

"Please, kill me quickly." Willow murmured.

"There will be no killing, not today."

"Then, what?"

"Do you want to go to B?" Faith asked, looking into the bruised green eyes.

"Yes. But she hasn't come, I mean, they haven't tried to see me."

"They tried, Willow. They did. But Shelia was keeping you locked away, like that princess. Anyways, they tried, but trying isn't working. So it is time for a little Faith, a little, WANT TAKE HAVE."

"Oh!" Willow exclaimed as Faith jumped from the second floor window, with her clutching tightly to the Slayer's neck.

"You need to be with family."

*****

I walked up the weed filled and cracked sidewalk, shifting the weight of Red in my arms. The house in front of me was in desperate need of a coat of paint. It looked gray. And this was certainly not the best neighborhood in Sunnydale. What happened to Buffy, what happened to all of them? It seemed like over time they were all knocked off their pedestals, down to where I dwelled, where I was clawing and scratching to escape from.

I stepped up onto the porch, and kicked the door, twice. Not too hard, even though the door was solid oak from the look of it, I didn't want to kick it in.

"Please, please." Red whispered.

"Hush now, Red, hush." I cooed down at her, and she looked at me with wide green eyes. I tried to soften my face, to calm her. I hoped it worked.

"What the?" The door was pulled open swiftly. It was B, standing there in cut off shorts, dirt on her cheek, her hair up under a black bandana. Even looking like trash, she was still otherworldly. She radiated the power, the poise. Man, I was hoping for her to appear less that she used to be, which would have been easier to see. Not this. But I guess no matter how far down we Slayers get, we will always look sexy as hell. Too bad I had Red in my arms, and too bad I promised Tara I would help them. Cause right then I would have loved to punch that look off B's face. She needed a good smack, to wake her up. Instead I spoke.

*****

"You forgot something, thought you might need." Faith said grinning, and handing over the weak and broken red head in her arms to Buffy. Buffy didn't even allow herself to think about Faith standing before her, she was centered only on holding Willow in her arms, feeling the frail woman's tears as they fell against her neck.

"Buffy, oh Buffy!" Willow wailed.

"Shh. Shh. Its okay. You're home now." Buffy kissed Willow's forehead, looking up at Faith. The two Slayers locked eyes. "How did?"

"Forget it B. She needs you." Faith shrugged, turning and walking down the steps.

"Faith?"

She turned her head, looking over her shoulder at Buffy.

"Thank you."

*****

He walked into the room, looking at the group assembled. He was still a little unsure on his feet, not used to this role as a quasi businessman. He had been happy before in his undead life, moving around the country feeding and just getting by. That was until he made the mistake of coming to Dallas, and finding himself trapped. The age-old situation, you work for the powerful man in town, or you die. And as he didn't fancy himself a pile of dust just after ten years of being the undead, he opted for working with the man who was at the center of the room. The vampire who exuded all of the power in this town. He was strong and a harsh leader. Acting as he looked, with his black hair and black eyes. He belonged in another era, that of Tommy guns and raids by the "coppers".

"So?" The leader asked.

"It is true. There is a partially closed Hellmouth in Sunnydale. And from all reports, it is ripe for the taking." He said to the leader.

"What of the Slayer? I heard she protected it."

"She is there, but there have been some mortal tragedies in her life of late, and she is not on her game."

"I see." The leader ran a long pale finger over his thick black brow. "Send a scout team out, find out where the Hellmouth is located, the protection it has. Report back to me."

"Sir."

*****

"Buffy, I am so sorry, I am sorr-" Willow pressed her face into the cradle of Buffy's neck, and suddenly her body is over come with violent spasms. Buffy held her tighter, setting her lips on Willow's fevered cheek.

"Shh. I am so glad you are here with us." Buffy whispered trying to calm her attack, but the red head kept jerking.

"Willow?" Dawn called out from the stairs, and Buffy turned.

"Dawn, open the door to my room. I need to put Willow down." Buffy started walking up the stairs.

"She can stay in my room." Dawn offered running back up to the small hall.

"We'll figure something out, but for now I need to set her down." All the while Willow was sobbing, mumbling incoherently. Buffy was thrilled to have her best friend back, knowing she was safe, and knowing that they would be able to take care of her again.

But how had Faith done it?

*****

The bell sounded over the door as Faith walked inside of the Magic Box. Both Anya and Giles looked up to watch her walk down the steps. She moved like a predator, made up perfectly to exude the sexuality, the power and the darkness that the world associated with Faith. From the tight black leather of the pants, to the tight black tank top, the steel toed boots, and the wild hair. Her make up was dark, her lips a searing mat red.

"Did you decide to kill us all?" Anya asked, and Faith laughed lightly.

"No. No killing." She winked at Giles, "Not today."

"Hello again Faith." Giles said, moving a step back, seemingly unknowing that was what he was doing.

"Hey. I just dropped Red off with B." She crossed her arms. "She'll be okay after a little bit of TLC." She shrugged. "Can I talk to you Giles?" She asked.

"Of course Faith."

They went into the training room, or what was left of the training room. Faith tapped a fallen beam with her toe and then spoke.

"It's B. What the hell is wrong with her?"

"What ever do you mean?"

"Her eyes. She's so filled with this darkness. What happened to the bubbly nothing can get me down Buffy? That woman I saw, that was not Buffy."

"A lot has changed in her world, Faith. You should be able to see the signs, understand where she is headed."

"I was afraid you were going to say that." She sighed, tucking her hands into the pockets of her pants.

"What will you do to help her?"

"I don't know if I can. You know I didn't sign on for this bullshit right? I am only do it for Tara."

"You two had a bond?"

"Who Blondie? Yeah. She gave me what none of you could. Her friendship, her compassion." Faith sighed. "I am doing this for her, and then I am getting the fuck out of here. I don't really care all that much about B, and her web of darkness she has going on. I mean, her fucking vampires has pretty much made it clear to all of us that she has this darkness in her. No, I am here for Red and Xander, and I will help them if I can, and then,"

"She needs you just as much as they do Faith."

"Yeah, well she pushed me away too many times for me to give a shit about that."

"Do you think that is fair?" He asked.

"Fair has nothing to do with it Giles." She rolled her eyes, and lowered her voice. "I don't hate her like I used to."

"What then?"

"Now I don't feel anything."

"Faith you need her just as much as she needs you."

"Hey I needed her, I needed her when I was a messed up sixteen year old. I needed her when I was seventeen and stuck in prison. But she didn't care. Why should I be the one to care about her now? Answer me that Giles. Why the FUCK should I care?"

"You love her, you are connected to her with a bond stronger than your hate, stronger than death."

"You need to stop reading those books, they mess with your head." She turned away from him.

"You cannot deny what you feel, what is your destiny." He said softly, hoping he could reach the young slayer.

"Sure I can. It's not true." She spun around glaring at him. "Do you hear me? Maybe I loved her once, but she pushed me away. I used to be slow, sure. But you know what? You kick me enough, you push me away enough, I learn. And I learned that B wasn't the one for me. She did not want me, so I pushed what I felt away. I loved her once, but she killed the love inside of me when she shoved that knife in my gut."

"Faith, you can't-"

"Shut it! I don't love her. And I am not staying here, not a second longer than I have to," she grinned. "Neither are you. We aren't needed. We don't matter. Not to her. You are feeling it too, being pushed away when her life is going good. Being begged to come back when her life is shit. I played that game, and I refuse to do it again. I am better than that."

*****

Willow had calmed down some, and had fallen asleep, clutching Mr. Gordo tightly to her chest. Buffy sat on the edge of the bed, looking down at her pale face. It had only been a few days, but she looked terrible, from the dark circles under her eyes, and the obvious weight loss.

"What did they do to you?" Buffy whispered, setting her lips on Willow's forehead. She would help her friend fight this pain, fight the addiction. And she hoped, she would help her deal with her obvious grief.

Buffy leaned back in the chair, wondering again how Faith had done it. Walked up casually, with Willow in her arms and handed her over like she was a lost sweater, or set of keys. She was the old Faith, cold, calculated. She looked the part, the clothes and the makeup.

Actually, Buffy thought, she looked just like she did that one night. The night Buffy would never forget.

<The base from the music inside the Bronze was drifting out side, raising in volume every time one of the doors were opened. It allowed the electricity to move outside with them. Buffy watched as Faith walked in front of her, pulling with her hand. She watched, amazed at how the younger girl looked like sex and power. Her thigh muscles straining against her leather pants, the way her top crossed over the muscles of her shoulders, and her hair bounced with each step. When they had been dancing, it felt to her that Faith was all around her. Inside her moving her blood faster, outside of her, the flesh of her hands warming her entire body with just a touch to her arms. As Faith turned, leaning against the brick wall, part of Buffy's mind screamed at her, what was she doing? Why was she letting herself go like this? But another part, a part that was just now awakening for the first time, told her that this is what she wanted, deep inside, and this is what she needed.

Faith arched an eyebrow, and then tugged on their joined hands, and Buffy let herself go. She fell against the younger girl, putting her palms flat against the brinks on either side of Faith's head. She looked directly into the other girl's eyes, looking for something, some hint of a spell. There had to be more than just Faith that was making Buffy press her lips against her neck. More than just the dark eyes suddenly so open, so free, that made Buffy press her breasts against hers. Didn't it have to be something more than just the way she moved, that made Buffy press her lips fiercely against Faith's?

The dark Slayer parted her lips, and Buffy plunged in. She was taking complete possession of the other girl's mouth, pressing herself against her, and using her tongue to explore that warm wet space that always uttered the innuendo, the teasing, the harsh truth. A deep moan vibrated from the chest against her, and Buffy felt Faith's hands moving up her back, into her hair. Faith pushed them away from the wall, never breaking the contact of their lips, as she pressed Buffy against the brick, and slipped one of those solid thighs between Buffy's.

"B!" She hissed out, as Buffy rolled her hips, feeling the power of Faith's thigh. She wanted to feel all of the other girl, and she wanted to do it now! There was no magic, no evil that was doing this. It was all Faith, and Buffy wanted her! She recaptured Faith's lips, bringing her hand to cup the full breast, feeling the nipple harden against her palm. It was amazing, that she did that; she made the body before her react. Suddenly hands were on her hips, guiding her against the length of Faith's thigh. She could feel her core suddenly dripping and aching to feel a real touch, not being separated from Faith by two layers of leather. She pulled her lips away, biting on the Faith's neck, feeling the shiver that ran though the brunette.

"Touch me Faith." She whispered, her tongue rolling on the other girl's ear.

"God, yes." Faith moaned again, and Buffy felt fingers where the solid thigh used to be, strong, moving against the seam of her pants, working against the rocking of her hips. She rolled her head back against the wall, her hair catching in the bricks. The fingers knew just how to touch her, but she was aching for more. And Faith knew. She pulled open Buffy's pants with one tug, the buttons undoing. Buffy's skin quivered and contracted as Faith's calloused hand moved over her stomach, down between flesh and the leather. Fingertips just grazing the beginning of her short hairs, tugging them gently. But not moving lower, not exploring further. Faith licked Buffy's neck, and then Buffy brought her head back down to look at the girl in front of her, to see why she had stopped. Her brown eyes looked black, and were wet, filled with unshed tears. Buffy cupped her face, running her thumbs over the cheekbones. Wishing for more light, so she could see the girl in front of her. Buffy wanted to beg, feeling Faith's fingertips moving through the top of her pubic hair. She needed Faith, she wanted Faith. She kissed the girl softly, chastely on the lips, and then felt the fingers moving lower. "I, I, love you." She heard whispered almost too low for her to hear, just as the tip of Faith's finger touched her outer lips. She hissed feeling the sensation coursing through her body. Faith loved her, and wanted her. Buffy opened her mouth to speak, to tell Faith what she was feeling. The girl's fingers, dipped lower, slowly moving against her. Buffy's knees went weak.

"BUFFY!?" It was Angel. Buffy froze, and so did Faith. "BUFFY?!" The dark haired girl jumped away from Buffy, looking over her shoulder towards the sound of Angel's voice, and then back to Buffy. The tears were still there. Her red lips opened to speak, but clearly Faith couldn't.

"Faith, I, I have to." Buffy began, but stopped as Faith's face fell. Buffy buttoned her pants, watching as Faith ran out of the alley.>

That was the beginning of the end for them. It started so fast, got so hot so fast, and burned out too quickly. Angel had needed her, and Buffy had turned her back on Faith, pushing her away. She had refused to talk about that night, refused to admit what she had been feeling. Days after Faith had tried to rekindle what they had started that night, but then they had killed Allan Finch, and it was over. Buffy couldn't see past the fear she was feeling to see what the younger girl must have been feeling. And so Faith had turned to someone who would listen to her, who would reach out to her and be there for her. The Mayor. And it only got worse from there.

If only Buffy could have done it differently, if only she could go back and do it over again.

But would I really? Could I ever have loved her like she needed me to? Buffy knew she couldn't anymore. She couldn't love anyone like that. She tried with Spike, but it was only lust and pain. Maybe it had all been for the best, them never getting together, it could have turned out so much worse.

*****

I left Giles after he started sputtering on about the Watcher's Council and what they all thought was best. I wanted to point out to him that he was no longer one of their lapdogs, but thought better of it, and just left.

Him going on about how I loved B, and how only I could save her. Did he even listen to himself when he spoke? He was spouting all of the shit that he should have been telling her years ago, telling her what she needed to do to save me. I doubted he did. No it was all about B, again. And I was tired of it being all about her.

I was heading back to the apartment, but the closer I got, the more sure I was that I didn't want to stay there. Especially after seeing Red. Man, she was in a bad way. I knew it wasn't all because of the magic, it was loosing Tara too. I didn't really even need slayer strength to hold her, and that was freaky. It wasn't like she was tiny, not like B. Naw, Red had been wasting away to nothing. They could help her now. And I would wait, until she was a little better, and then she and I would have a chat about Tara. I owed both of them that much.

I was about to turn back, to the other side of town and the motel where I stayed last, when I noticed someone push off of a wall and start walking towards me. Only for a second did I freeze, wondering if it was B. But I couldn't smell B, or sense her, or whatever I do when she was around. Besides, the girl walking towards me was taller, and had black hair. I sighed. Her again.

"Hey, Slayer." She said seductively, running her hand over my arm.

"I thought we talked about this." I said, crossing my arms.

"Did we?" She asked, arching an eyebrow. Wow, been a long time since I was on the receiving end of that look.

"Yeah, don't touch, and don't call me that."

"But it is what you are, right?"

"You want me to call you 'whore' or 'glory hole'?" I snapped, and she flinched.

"That was crude." She said sadly.

"That's just me." Now I felt like shit, great. "The name's Faith. What's yours?"

"Jane." She sighed. Right, she was Jane I was fucking Tarzan. But what did I care.

"Nice to meet you then, Jane." I nodded behind her. "Slow night?"

"Not really, just was in the mood for something, stronger." She winked. Oh, I kinda liked her; she wasn't one to give up.

"Can't get stronger than this." I looked down at myself, and then back up to see her licking her bottom lip. Oops. Time to back track. Other things on my mind right now. I cocked my hips into my No-fucking-around stance. "So, Jane, you seen any vamps around town?"

"Duh." She shrugged.

"You didn't let me finish. I am talking about the higher class ones, you know, dress nice, flash some cash." Cause I was hurting for some dough, and I would rather rob a vamp than a human. Always remembering I was trying to be a good little Slayer.

"Oh, right. You could try Willy's. You have to pay there." She looked up to the night sky. "Maybe around the Bronze. Used to be there were over at City Hall, but when the Mayor blew up, they kind of scattered from there." I flinched, but inside.

"You've been here awhile then." I said.

"I was born here." She laughed.

"How old are you?" I asked, squinting at her.

"Old enough." She shrugged. She was tired of playing this game, and I could tell she wanted to go for one more try at me, and the way her icy blue eyes twinkled, I knew she might just convince me, if I didn't motor-vate.

"See ya." I said, turning, walking briskly away.

"If you ever change your mind, Slayer." She said softly, but I picked it up, and smiled. I would definitely keep that offer in mind.

*****

Xander was just staring at her. Taking in her features as she slept. He loved Willow, so much. He could not believe she was sleeping, right there.

When he had come by this morning, and Buffy had told him what happened, with Faith showing up with Willow in her arms, he had been dumbfounded. That somehow she had managed to break through the castle walls that Mrs. Rosenberg set up, and pulled Willow out of there. She couldn't be all bad. Anya said she wasn't, and he had to believe her, she knew bad. Especially now.

Right now he was content to watch over Willow, while Buffy was at work, and Dawn was out, somewhere. There was a knock on the door downstairs, and he reluctantly left Willow's side.

He opened the door and took a step back.

"Faith." He said, looking her up and down. She was wearing her typical uniform. Leather and leather and more leather.

"Xander." She said, tilting her head to the side.

"What do you want?" he asked.

"To check on Red. To see how you are doing."

"What do you care?" He asked, wanting her to just leave. He had enough to worry about, aside from her bringing up the past by standing there, looking so poised.

"Made a promise."

"So break it."

"I do many things, Xander, but I never break my promises." She smiled. "So are you going to let me in, or should I just knock your ass down and come in my way?"

"Fine." He stepped back. "But Willow is sleeping."

"Was B able to get her to eat?" Faith asked, stepping inside. He watched her seeing her eyes quickly dart to every corner of the room, mapping it, checking it. She was in Slayer mode. It was eerie how similar she and Buffy were.

"I think she tried, but mainly Wills has been sleeping."

"Still getting those shakes?"

"Yeah." He asked looking at her. How in the hell did she know?

"Her room was a fucking witch haven. Doesn't surprise me, being around all of that stuff. B doesn't have any of that here, does she?" Faith asked, walking deeper into the living room. He was forced to just follow.

"No. Last time Willow got off the magic wagon, we got rid of it all."

"Good. It's like putting a drunk belly up to an open bar." She turned to face him. "Gonna offer me something to drink?" She asked, like they were old friends.

*****

I squinted my eyes at him, taking in the state of disarray that was Xander. Reminded me of Pigpen, you know, from Charlie Brown. Watching him moving around the kitchen, it was like the dirt and smell followed him. Seeing him so disheveled and well, just plan broken was shocking. He had always been blissfully happy, an annoying trait, but one that was him. I was sure that when she was conscious, Red was picking up on it, and I figured Kiddo and B were feeling it too. I was tired of looking at him, like this. Even after twenty minutes. It was time to get this started.

"So what the fuck is your problem?" I asked, watching his face contract, like I slapped him.

"What?"

"You are disgusting. Do you own a mirror?" I snapped, standing and walking closer to him. "You stink."

"Thanks, Faith."

"Tell me Xander, tell me what is making you forget to be a human and take care of yourself?"

"Oh, I don't know Faith. Maybe my life is completely ruined." He puffed up his chest.

"Ruined? So bad that you don't care about anything? If that's the case, Xander, just end it."

"What?" He was shocked, no longer mad.

"Life's so bad, just end it. Really what will it matter to you, if it is so bad."

"I, I don't want-"

"Jesus. You don't want to die, but you don't want to live." I walked around him, dropping my voice. "Then what the hell is your problem?"

"Tara is dead."

"Yeah, she is. You think she would expect you to be like this?"

"No, but."

"Stop being weak, Xander. This," I moved my hands around him. "Is not about Tara. You know it and I know it."

"If you are so fucking smart Faith, then what is it about?"

"Anya." Bingo. His eyes dropped, I was right.

"No."

"Bullshit." I pushed him, and he sat down on the kitchen chair with a grunt. "All the signs are there buddy-boy."

"Signs."

"You love her so much, and you fucked it up. You Xander, you ruined what you had and you lost her love. And you can't breath, can't live a moment without thinking about her."

"Please. What does a heartless bitch like you know about love?"

"Ouch." I grinned, kneeling before him. Okay, I was doing this for Tara; I was doing this for their own good. "You are blind too." I sighed, looking at my hands, then looking back up to his wide eyes. "I know exactly what it is like to screw up, to fuck up something so wonderful that you think that you can never go back."

"Right."

"Okay, don't believe me." I grinned. "But see, me, when I fucked up, I didn't stop bathing, didn't stop caring. Me, I went wacky, thinking I'll take away everything she ever had, ever wanted. If she didn't want me, then she would have nothing."

"Buffy?" He whispered and I raised my eyes, looking at him.

"Yeah. Buffy. See, Xander, I loved her so much. She was everything I thought about back then. And I made a mistake, I over stepped the line, and it became clear that she would never love me back. So I went crazy, and well," I laughed, "You were there, you know what I did. I am not proud, and I would give anything to take it back. But I can't."

"Do you still love her?"

"No. I let her go, finally when she died." I stood up. "Doesn't matter anymore. I am tired of loving someone who will never love me. But you; Xander, Anya loves you so much. She is just really hurt. You did that to her, and you are the only one who will help her get over the pain. If you love her, and if you want to be with her, you need to do something right. You need to make it right between you two. If you don't you will loose her forever."

*****

"Faith!" Dawn exclaimed throwing down her purse and running into the living room and launching herself at the Slayer. Luckily Faith was standing and caught the younger Summers girl in her arms, returning the fierce hug she was given. Dawn was so thrilled to see the Slayer.

"Hey, Kiddo." Faith said, still holding her, and watching over her shoulder as Xander frowned. "Aren't you a little old to be jumping up in my arms?"

"Never!" Dawn laughed, but then leaned back, and Faith let her drop to the floor safely. "Well, maybe you are right. I am not a kid anymore."

"Don't I know it." Faith said smiling, walking around the other girl. Dawn straighten up, loving her height, loving that she was just as tall as Faith now. She looked over the Slayer too; she looked a little thinner that Dawn remembered, but still as imposing and tough. "All grown up."

"Could you not ogle her?" Xander snapped, and Faith turned to him, her hand raised.

"That is just wrong, on so many levels, Xander." She hissed, and then turned back smiling at Dawn. "You aren't supposed to be happy to see me."

"Oh, right. The whole we hate Faith club." Dawn laughed, taking Faith' s hand. "I never did like that club so I dropped out."

"Good to hear it."

"Make me something to eat?" Dawn pleaded, recalling moments in the past, of her and Faith sitting around the kitchen table stuffing themselves so full of terrible things, until their stomachs pooched out.

"You got it!"

Dawn noticed Xander's huff, as he left the house. But she didn't care, because Faith was there.

*****

I looked over my shoulder as I stood at the stove, clicking on the burner under a pot of water. She was still the same Kiddo, even if the outside was growing up. She was so tall, and was loosing some of the awkwardness she used to have. I used to think of her as a rag doll on speed, just a tiny body with long limbs crashing around the place. She was wearing a tank top today, and I couldn't help but notice she was getting some muscle definition.

"You've been working out." It was a statement, as I turned back to her, waiting on the water.

"Oh my gosh! Not just that Faith. I have been training!" She squealed, and as much as I tried I couldn't stop my smile.

"Training huh?"

"Totally! See when Willow tried to kill Buffy using these weird dirt monsters." She stopped and looked up at me. "You do know that Willow went kind of, erm, crazy?"

"Yeah. She was trying to win my title for psycho-Scooby of the year." I laughed, and Dawn took a deep breath, relieved that she didn't have to relive all of that by telling me.

"Right, sort of." She furrowed her brow, just like her big sis. "So she was fighting, but they kept coming, and I was all 'screw this'."

"You were all what?"

"I channeled you I think. So not the point." She grinned. "Anyway, I picked up a sword and just started hacking away at them with her. And we won!" She was bouncing in the chair. It was too cute for words. But I always liked the Kiddo, in spite of the fact that her voice was like nails on a chalkboard. I nodded at her, to go on. "So Buffy was all like, 'oh you are a woman now, and I will be a better sister'. I was so not buying it, but she has been taking me out for light slaying, and training like twice a week."

"Just twice a week?" I crossed my arms.

"I kind of need the rest in between." She wiggled her arms. "I am definitely not a Slayer, and after half of a session I am in need of muscle relaxants."

"Well, I am glad you are training."

"Really?"

"Sure, Kiddo. I always thought you should. You need to be able to protect yourself." I winked at her and checked the water. I hated to do this to her, but I needed to know if what Anya told me was the truth. I dropped my voice. "Did you find her?"

"What?" She squeaked. Nails on chalkboard.

"Did you find Tara?" I turned around, looking at her. The color was gone, the joy was gone. She did. I kneeled in front of her. "How are you doing, Kiddo?"

"That was the worst moment of my life." She whispered, looking at me, tears filling her blue eyes. "Buffy won't talk about it, but I, I need to talk about it."

"Do you want to talk to me about it?" I volunteered. But she closed her eyes. "Maybe Giles?"

"No. I mean, can't we just not?"

"And what, Dawn? Pretend like it never happened?"

"Yes."

"That isn't healthy, you know." I set my hand on her knee, but then pulled my hand back. Who was I trying to kid? I wasn't the comforting compassionate type. I should just smack her and tell her to get over it.

"They were so happy. Just that morning, they were all kissing, and whispering to each other. I wanted them to get back together so much." Her eyes were still closed, and I just waited. "I wanted to see how they were doing, when I got home. Everything was quiet. I went upstairs, and found her. Just lying there. So pale." She sobbed, putting her hand to her lips.

"It is hard to see someone you love looking like that." I whispered. Slowly she opened her eyes.

"How would you know?"

"I found my Watcher, my first one. She had been murdered by a vamp."

"Khaki pants, right I remember." She nodded, and I bit back my laugh. Her and her sister.

"Right." I stood, going back to the stove. "I won't lie to you, Kiddo. That vision will stay with you for the rest of your life. But you need to work through it, you need to also remember all the other moments you had with Tara."

"I know. And I do." She sighed. "I am so glad that Willow is back." So was I, but I didn't say it. I closed my eyes, listening to the house.

"Speaking of Red." I said, moving to the refrigerator. I could feel her, above my head starting to wake up. "She's almost awake."

"How did you?"

"A slayer thing." I shrugged. I had perfected my listening and smelling skills in prison. Needed to know what was going on around me, especially all that I couldn't see.

"Oh."

"I'm going to make her an omelet, and I want you to take it to her." I pulled out a carton of eggs.

"Why?"

"She needs lots of protein." I shrugged. "Is she a weird vegetable only eater too?"

"Naw, just Kosher, but even she caves when Tara would make me bacon and eggs."

"Cool." I let her recall that happy moment, hoping she would have understood my meaning earlier.

*****

"What the hell are you doing?"

"Um, eating Mac and Cheese?" Faith said, looking down at her half empty plate, and then back up to Buffy.

"Yes, but why? What gives you the right-"

"Calm down there chief." Faith said, dropping her fork down. "Kiddo asked me to make dinner, and so I did."

"Kiddo?" Buffy rolled her eyes. "And where is my dear sister?"

"Up with Red. She woke up, and we made her an omelet. Dawn is getting her to eat. Which is a good thing. She's skin and bones." Faith mumbled, standing and taking her dishes to the sink. Faith was taking care of both Willow and Dawn. What crazy reality had Buffy found herself in now? Faith rinsed the dish and put it in the washer.

"That doesn't work." Buffy said, taking off her Doublemeat hat, and tossing it on the counter.

"Does now. I fiddled with it." Faith shrugged, and then turned to lean on the counter, crossing her arms. She looked like the old Faith, poised and ready for a fight. The question Buffy had to ask herself was did she want one.

"What are you doing Faith."

"Looking at you, B."

"No. I mean, here, in my house, in my town, messing with my friends." Buffy took a step forward, but then took a deep breath. She didn't want a fight, not right now.

"I came by to check on Red." She moved away from Buffy, counting off her fingers, "I got out of jail and came to tell you," she was still moving; "I am helping them in ways you can't." She grinned. "Any more questions, girlfriend?"

"I can help them."

"Sure. That's why Red was stuck in her room, starving herself to death, thinking of ways to die. Cause you can help her." Faith spat out.

"Fuck you Faith." Buffy sneered.

"Naw, we tried that once, remember. But it was wrong." Faith leered back, throwing that one night in her face, just like she always did.

"What makes you think you can help them?" Buffy ignored the jab.

"Everyone is telling me I can, and only I can."

"Who?"

"Giles, Tara, hell, even you. The way you are all bent out of shape seeing me here, but not throwing punches. You know I can give them what they need right now." Faith closed her eyes slowly taking a breath. When she looked back at Buffy her demeanor seemed to have changed. "Listen Buffy. I am not here to take them away from you, or anything like that. I am here because for once in my life I am needed and I think that I can really help them. So that is what I am going to do. I am going to help them, and then I am gone. Okay? So can you just deal with me for the time being?" Then a wicked grin crossed her lips. "When it is time for me to go, you and I can have a little battle of the Slayers, for old times sake. But not till then." She walked out of the kitchen. "Tell Red I will be by tomorrow. She needs a walk."

Buffy just watched her go, mouth agape.

*****

Where did she get off? She was always the same little stuck up bitch. Even with her new foray into playing a walking dead girl, she was still hung up on her superiority complex.

UGH! Why did she still have the power to rub me the wrong way? She didn't even have to open those pouty lips and I was already itching for it, waiting for the jab. She really drove me crazy!

How could she for one second think that she was better than me? She slung processed meat for a job! How fucking pathetic is that?

At least she has a job. Oh, some days I hated my mind. It was a back stabbing little piece of gray matter. I hated when it was right.

She was still the top Slayer, the better Slayer. She still had a family, no matter how currently whacked out they all were. And she had money in her pocket, and not money stolen from demons and vamps.

I wanted to be better than her. I needed to be better than her. To show her, to show them! I was worth something!

So, what are you gonna do? Get a fucking job I guess.

*****

"What in the world are you doing?" He asked coming into the basement. He had just been up to check on Willow, but she was gone.

"Laundry." Buffy said in her best duh voice, as she loaded more whites into the machine. She didn't even bother to look over her shoulder at Xander.

"But, I mean, well."

"What?" She closed the lid and turned to face him, crossing her arms.

"It's just weird."

"Weird?"

"You being the Slayer and doing something as mundane as laundry." He shrugged.

"Xander, I do laundry, I piss, I shit, I fart, I burp, and if I get lucky I fuck. I do all that, and just because you don't see it doesn't mean it doesn't happen."

"Whoa!" He held up his hands and took a step back.

"Really, I am a Slayer, sure. I've led a pretty amazing and fanciful life. But I am still a woman, a human, and I do human things." She said, cocking her head to the side. "Speaking of human things. You took a shower."

"I did."

"And after a month, what made that happen?"

"Well, aside from my pants being able to stand without me in them, Faith told me I smelled and if I didn't shower she was going to have, erm, Giles for me to."

"Huh?" Buffy couldn't help her grin.

"She said she would strip us naked and throw us in the bathroom."

"Gotcha." Buffy smiled. "That girl is a motivator."

"She thinks I should try and win aback Anya." He said softly.

"She does, does she?"

"Yeah."

"What do you think?"

"I think I want."

"So do." Buffy smiled, and Xander smiled back. She had missed that smile.

"How's Will?" He asked, smile faltering.

"She's with Faith. They were going for a walk."

"So what do you think about all of this Faithiness?"

"She's not Tara." Buffy started, "But she is."

"She knows how to get us to see what we really don't want to. Tara did it in a round about way. Faith slams your face in it."

"I know."

"So, it is weird though. Us not hating her, her not killing us, no one saying they are sorry."

"Xander, we've all come a long way from 'I'm sorries'. What she did you can't apologize away. She is showing us that she has changed by her actions. I don't want to hear her sorries; I want to see what she can do to help us. Giles said she was the only one who could get us. You know?"

"Did you know that she was in love with you?"

"You aren't supposed to tell me that Xander. She told you in confidence." Buffy walked passed him, to the stairs.

"But did you?"

"Of course I did. And she knew that I loved her too, in my own way." Buffy didn't turn around.

"No I don't think she did, Buff. She said you never loved her, and could never love her, and that was what made her do the wacky. And then she had to get over you."

"She got over me?"

"That's what she said."

"Oh."

"But that is for the best, right? I mean now there is no like weirdness between you two. You can just be friends." He offered following her up the stairs.

"Yeah. Sure." She answered, but without conviction.

*****

Faith was sitting on the grass, next to Willow. Willow could smell the smoke coming from the end of the Slayer's cigarette, it kind of comforted her. And the comfort helped, because the conversation they were having was not a pleasant one.

The walk had been slow, and nice, and Willow had needed it. Feeling the muscles in her legs stretching. But when they got to the park, Faith had not eased into the conversation. Far from it. She jumped in, telling Willow all about the night she stabbed the Professor to death. The Slayer told it in horrifying detail, her eyes never once leaving Willow's face. After she described the blood, the knife, then she turned away, lighting a cigarette.

"It's not the kill that you have to look out for, Red."

"Why?"

"The act is the byproduct. The moment before the kill you feel it, the power, the rush."

Willow nodded slowly.

"But when it is done, it's quick. You feel cheated, so a part of you wants to do it again."

Again Willow nodded, a tear rolling down her cheek.

"And that is okay, Willow. To feel that. You just have to learn to control it, control yourself. Not letting it get that far, not letting it tempt you."

More tears now.

"I can help you, if, if you will let me." Faith was quiet for a moment. "Will you?"

"Yes."

*****

"The one thing that I don't understand-"

"Just one thing," Giles quipped under his breath, but Anya continued on, undaunted.

"Is why you mortals can't just face reality?" She fluttered the paper work before her. "I mean hello, why can't I get Crazy Witch insurance. I mean this is not the FIRST time that a witch went on a violent rampage in here, and with Willow's track record, I am sure that it will happen again."

"Anya, please. I believe that Willow deserves our support in this endeavor. She was under considerable duress, and"

"Oh, stuff your British ness, would you! She is a witch with a problem. I know that Tara being murdered right in front of her eyes really knocked her off the wagon. But without the white witch here to ground her," she sighed. "I am just not holding my breath."

"Fine." He took off his glasses. "And what, dare I ask, brought this on?" He sighed.

"This!" She threw down the paper. "We had to claim that this," waved her arms again, "was caused by random vandals. And they are telling me that my insurance rates are going up, and I have to get better security. What security would keep a Wicca away?"

"Maybe some TLC." Xander said from the doorway, looking over at them. "That and Faith scaring the Hell out of her."

"Oh, well yes, the Slayer sure is good at that. The scaring, I mean." Anya said, and turned away from Xander as he came into the room.

"Xander, you are looking well." Giles said, smiling and relieved to have a distraction from Anya.

"Thanks. Was feeling a little Bert and Ernie." Xander grinned.

"Erm, what?" Giles asked.

"Ambiguous references to Sesame Street, Rubber ducky or something like that." Anya mumbled to Giles.

"Oh?" He looked between the two young people.

"You remembered." Xander said to Anya, Giles forgotten.

"Of course I remember. Every time I take a bath I remember the first time we bathed together, and you sang that annoying song, and I had to reach in the water and grab a hold of your-" Anya began.

"I believe I will take my leave of you two. I will check on Willow." Giles said, lifting his jacket off of the sawhorse where the table used to be. He moved to the door, and closed it securely behind him.

Anya looked over her shoulder, and seeing Xander still there she scoffed. Though, she looked again, and thought he did look better, handsome almost. No, don't go there. Don't think about how soft his hair feels in my fingers, how his mouth falls open when he-

"What do you want, Xander?" She asked, turning to face him.

"I, I." He ran his hand over his face. "God I have made so many mistakes. I am not denying that. And I am not saying I don't deserve all of the wrath you need to give me. But I can't stop loving you, An. I thought about it, once for like, two minutes, and I felt like I was going to die. I just can't not love you, and want to be with you." He stepped forward, his hand extending, but she shot him a look of daggers, and he dropped his hand to his side. "I have to try. You may not want me to, but I have to. You are the best thing that ever happened to me, and I can't just let that go. I can't pretend like I don't need you. 'Cause I do. I may not deserve you, but I need to love you."

"God, you are an asshole." She sighed, closing her eyes. When she opened them, she saw that he was walking to the door. "You are an asshole, but I didn't tell you to leave!" She called out, and he turned, looking at her. She smiled softly. "I am not saying okay. I am not saying I will forget. You hurt me Xander, you hurt me worse than I thought even you were capable of. And I won't forget that." She grinned. "I can't really, being a vengeance demon and all." Her smile faltered. "Can you still love me, with me being a demon?"

"You were an ex-demon then, and I loved you. You are still my Anya." He said softly.

"Well, then." She clasped her hands together. "So I won't forget, and you are not forgiven. But maybe I can let you try." She smiled, and his face beamed, with a smile brighter than she had seen in months.

"Okay."

"First thing you can do is check that carpentry in the back room. I am afraid they saw that I was a blonde and are trying to rip me off. And if that is the case, I have a friend who can take care of them."

"You got it." Xander, still grinning, walked over to the new wall.

*****

"What was with that name?" Buffy asked, sitting at the kitchen table. Willow and Faith had just gotten back, and from the look of the grass stains on Willow's khaki pants, they had been to the park.

"Huh?" Faith asked, taking a bottle of water from the refrigerator, snapping it open, and then handing it to Willow.

"The name you used. When I tried to find you in jail, didn't know your made up name." Buffy asked, and then sipped her iced tea. The summer heat was kicking in, and Buffy again moaned inwardly that the new house did not have air conditioning. She wondered how Faith could stand wearing leather pants when it was nearly 100 degrees.

"Oh, that." She shrugged. "Why do you want to know, I mean now? Wasn't that all like a week ago?"

"I was going through this box of kitchen stuff, and ran across where I wrote it down." Buffy shook her head. "What does it matter why I asked? I want to know. I mean, is that your real name?"

Faith laughed low in her chest. "No. My name is Faith." She looked up at Buffy, and then shrugged her shoulders. "I read this book once. Hey don't give me that look, Red, yeah I know how to read, what you think I am stupid?"

"Well you didn't finish High School." Willow snickered.

"Uh, Red, I dropped out cause I was bored, not cause I was stupid. Hello, Slayer, super powers, and not just the strength." Suddenly Faith turned to Willow and smirked. "Didn't B get a higher SAT score than you?"

"Um well," Willow gulped, blushing.

"Faith we don't talk about that." Buffy smiled, liking that they were having a normal conversation. All of them.

"Well you should. And I bet mine would be just as high. Don't let the leather and the panties that read 'welcome' on them give you the wrong idea. I'm not dumb."

"Okay, erm, sorry." Willow admitted.

"Anyway. I read this book, and the hero was this wicked badass chick right. She was a cop, and all righteous, fighting evil and all that. She had a shitty life growing up, and was using that rage to fight the baddies. That and she sounded wicked sexy, and wore leather and rode a motorcycle."

"Sexy huh?" Willow asked, wiggling her eyebrows. It just made Buffy beam, her Willow was coming back.

"Oh, yeah. Blonde hair, green eyes, strong," Faith stopped, as Willow looked from her to Buffy and then back to her. Faith cleared her throat. "Anyways, she was cool, and the cops were all like, give us your real name, and I did and they were like, um no, your real one. But I was like, um, hello I just did. But they wanted another one, so I figured I needed some random name, and I used hers."

"Oh." Buffy said, still a little uncomfortable with the description of what Faith considered sexy. But how moronic was that? She knew that once upon a time, Faith had been attracted to her.

"What name are you going to use now?" Willow asked.

"What do you mean?"

"For your job?" Willow asked, and Faith glared at her. Buffy picked up on that too.

"Oh? Our little slayer has a job?"

Faith stood up from the table. "Working on getting one," she mumbled. "I am using my real name this time." She said to Willow and walked out of the room.

"Ouch," Buffy grinned. "I think I stepped on poor little Faithy's toes." She turned in her chair. "So Wills, spill. What job is she getting? Stripper? Bouncer? Slaughter House?"

"I don't know. She just mentioned she was looking and asked what I did." Willow shrugged. "But me being a student didn't help her."

Buffy's face darkened.

"What?"

"You reminded me."

"Of?"

"A talk I so don't want to have with Dawn later."

"Avoidance-much?" Willow laughed. "So what is the big talk about? Cause if it is the birds and the bees, sorry, but I covered that one last year."

"No, it's about money, and the complete and utter lack of it." Buffy groaned.

*****

"Dawnie, I erm, God how do I say this?" Buffy was pacing.

"Maybe if you try opening your mouth and letting sounds come out." Dawn cocked her hips and hissed. She so did not have time for this, she just had to get ready, she was going over to Ashley's so they could sneak out and go to a party down at the beach.

"Okay, I so don't need your attitude right now." Buffy glared.

"I am busy Buffy."

"Fine. I'll just say it then. You need to get a job."

"What!!" She was dumbfounded. Her work? Never!

"You heard me Dawn."

"I heard you, but I seriously think that you are having another case of the Slayer wackies. I will not work."

"If you want anything more than a roof over your head and some food in your stomach then you will."

"What do you mean?"

"Money to go out, money for mochas, clothes."

"Oh, no you don't!" She screamed. "You have to get those things for me, you being the one raising me and all."

"Dawn, Hello!!!! I work at the fucking Doublemeat Palace. How in the hell do you expect me to keep you clothed and give you an allowance?"

"Work longer hours?" She smirked.

"Yeah, let me schedule some more double shifts in while I keep some time open for SAVING THE FUCKING WORLD."

"That's not your job anymore. Faith is back, let her do it."

"Um, no." Buffy scoffed.

"Um, yes." Dawn walked to the stairs. "I will not get a job, you never had one when you were my age."

"Hello? Slayer?"

"They never paid you. Not the same thing." Dawn stomped up the stairs. Her sister was really loosing her mind if she thought for one second that she would stoop to the level of having a job. What would her friends think if they knew? Oh, no way. Not before senior year. Nope. So uncool.

*****

He was pacing. The reports had come back an hour before. This was it. This was his moment, his destiny. He would rise above all of the rest. He would be the one that all others bowed before. They would all know his name and cower before him. It made him giddy just thinking about it.

"Sir?" He turned, and looked back over the table of those assembled. A rag tag bunch of lesser demons, but he would lead them to the highest of places. The world would bow before all of them. Oh he was just getting too happy. He could almost feel a twitch of a smile on the corner of his lip.

"Yes." He moved back to take his seat at the head of the glossed ebony table.

"We have reviewed the scrolls. Everything that is needed is there, in place. We just need to step in and take it for ourselves." She spoke. She was his favorite, with her coffee colored skin that just radiated life, even after death, and her frighteningly exotic green eyes. She had served him well, and he wondered again, if she should be the one to rule the world at his side.

"I believe it is time for us to travel to Sunnydale then." He smiled at her, feeling his fangs just brushing his bottom lip. She returned the smile. Yes she might just be the one.

"What makes you so sure that this will work?" He spun his head to his right, to the young vampire, who looked about fifteen years old, with his rounded face, and freckles. Oh I hate him.

"We have the scroll. No one else had the scroll." He said, glaring at the young one.

"Um, actually, others had the scroll." Another voice, this one from the leather clad woman on his left.

"Who?" He asked, leaning back, taping his fingers together.

"Well, I believe the Master had it," the young one said, sitting up like it was Christmas and the presents were being all handed to him. "And then the Mayor had it."

"But then, where did we get it?" He asked, not liking the fact that he did not know these details.

"Actually, we got it about a month ago, on e-bay." His assistant said, looking down at the table. E-bay, he huffed.

"I see." He stood, walking around the back of the chairs. "You are dead." He staked the young faced boy quickly. He dusted and all the others held their breaths. "E-bay." He grumbled. "Fine. So they had the scroll. But they couldn't use it! And I know why!" He laughed.

"Um, why?" The leather clad one again. Oh, he did not like her tone.

"They didn't have what is there now." He grinned. "Oh, and you are dead too." He sneered, throwing the stake across the table, and she too, was no more. "So you all know what needs to be done." He dismissed them, and walked over to his assistant, leaning to whisper in her ear. "Can you set me up with internet access?"

*****

Buffy spun around after Dawn's rapid departure, seeing Faith standing in the doorway, arms crossed.

"What?" Buffy huffed.

"Nothing, just seeing it you wanted to go out." Faith shrugged and looked up the stairs. "I can talk to her for you, if you want."

"Maybe." Buffy shook her head, this was just ridiculous. Faith standing in her front door, offering to help.

"So, um, want to patrol?"

"Don't see why not." Buffy mumbled, moving to the closet. It was still warm, but she needed a light jacket to conceal her stakes.

"I'll be back." Faith bounded up the stairs before Buffy had a chance to say another word. What did it matter? The world was fucked up and crazy, if Faith wanted to face the wrath of Dawn Summers, fine. She dug out one of her favorite jackets, and pulled it out, noticing out of the corner of her eye the multicolored scarf that was caught on the zipper.

"Darn thing." She mumbled, kneeling to pick up the scarf. Her senses were flooded with the smell of Tara, and she held the scarf tighter in her hand. It was one of Tara's favorites, she remembered borrowing it one night, in the spring. Buffy brought it up slowly to her nose, breathing in deeply.

*****

"Hey, Kiddo." Faith said, and Dawn spun around. She had been sitting at her vanity, applying a heavy amount of eye shadow.

"Hi." She tried to smile, but just turned back to finish.

"You know, having a job is pretty cool." Faith offered.

"Did she send you up here?"

"Who? B? Naw." Faith dismissed that with her hand. "Even if she begged me, I wouldn't do anything for her. This isn't about her. It's about you."

"Right. She just wants to control me."

"Don't think so. Having a job of your own, having your own cash, see that is the opposite of control. She is offering you freedom." Dawn was confused. "Doesn't it suck having to put your hand out to her every time you want something? Pleading and justifying what you want to her? Sucks, don't it?"

"Yeah."

"See, if you had your own job, and your own cash, she has no say. Get it?" Faith offered, but turned her head sharply back to the hall.

"I guess so."

"Okay, good. Think about it, Kiddo. That's all I am saying." Faith was already gone from the door. She always was a little weird, Dawn mused.

*****

She couldn't stop the sobs coming from her throat. Even though each one was filled with a choking pain, she couldn't stop. It just was so wrong! Warren was trying to kill her, HER! Why was Tara the one to die?

Why was it always her fault, why did they all get hurt because of her? Why couldn't she have stopped it? She should have known he would have come after her like that? Oh, God, it just wasn't fair!

"Been awhile since you've done that, huh?" Faith's voice said softly.

"What?" Buffy choked out, looked up at her, still feeling the tears rolling off of her chin.

"Cried." Faith squatted down next to Buffy. "Feels good, doesn't it?" Faith tucked a strand of hair behind Buffy's ear. "We all need to do it."

"This coming from the person who sees crying as a sign of weakness. When was the last time you actually allowed yourself to cry Faith?" She snapped, pulling away from Faith's touch. How dare she try and do this? How dare she even try to console Buffy!

"You know, I try and tell myself that I am all confused, that the way I feel isn't right. But you know what B? I think I was right all along."

"About what, F?"

"You are a heartless bitch, and I would like nothing more that to kick your stuck up ass."

*****

FUCK YOU!

That was my mantra as I moved away from her and slammed the front door behind me. What in the hell was I thinking, trying to help her? No, I had been totally right with my game plan before. I would help the others, and Buffy Summers could simply FUCK OFF! I was tired of her face; I was tired of her voice. UGH. I was just tired.

I stopped my stomping feet at the end of her driveway. I looked back to the house, seeing the lights on.

It was kind of good to see her crying. And not for the whole, whoo hoo your life sucks and I am so happy about it. More along the lines of, you are actually a human being and are feeling something, and yeah that makes me happy, even though I hate you, kind of way.

No, no no no no no!

I was not going to worry about her! I was not going to care that she was getting all dark and broody and was probably slowly dying inside. Not my problem. So what if I knew what she was feeling, walking around like a shell, feeling like her insides were nothing more than death and dirt, and no matter how much you scrub, you never feel clean, cause it is in the inside and you can't reach it. No, she let me feel that way, she never once tried to help, never reached out to me, so why in the hell would I do for her what she was too fucking precious to do for me.

"Faith?"

I spun around, seeing her standing under the porch light, it highlighting her hair, catching the drying tears on her cheeks. FUCK YOU! I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HATE YOU!

"Are we still going to patrol?" Her voice was nervous. Yeah you should be nervous, Buffy Anne Summers, cause I have a knife strapped to my calf, and I know how to use it. You hear me? Do you? Do you want me to end all of your suffering, you bitch! Oh, you think biting your lower lip will get you out of the excruciating death I have planned for you? You think rounding your eyes in apology is going to stop me from kicking in your face?

"Yeah."

I am weak.

*****

Maybe this wasn't the best idea. Buffy thought as she twirled her stake between her fingers. Her and Faith, patrolling together like old times. The question was, which old times? When they hated the sight of each other or before.

One newbie vamp started to claw his way up through the earth ahead of them, and Faith ran towards him. Buffy crossed her arms, watching as Faith did a vaulted handspring over a headstone, and landed forcing the stake through the vamps newly risen chest. He dusted away, only half out of the grave.

"Ah. That was nice." She said, running her hand over her hair, and then turning her bright smile, and twisted grin towards Buffy. "Where's your new dead-boy? I haven't seen him around on my patrols?" Faith asked.

"None of your business." Buffy snapped back, not wanting to talk about Spike, not wanting to think about Spike.

<"I got an idea. How about from now on we don't hear from you on Angel, or anything else in my life. Which by the way is my life.">

"Same old story, huh, B. You boinking the un-dead and not wanting to talk about it." Faith shrugged, and turned away.

"At least I keep my partners to a minimum." Buffy mumbled. Knowing she fell right into this trap, but not seeing how to get out. When it came to verbal sparring, Faith was a master.

"You trying to say I'm a slut?" She asked, not turning around, still walking away.

"Yeah."

"Hmm." Faith turned around, facing Buffy, and rubbed her chin. "Been awhile since I've had any." She shrugged. "Maybe I better find me something then huh? Wouldn't want to disappoint you princess." She sneered. "Should I try out little William the Bloody? Round out my, 'I've had all the cock that Buffy's had' set?"

"Faith?"

"Yeah?"

"Go fuck yourself. Oh, and duck!" Buffy said throwing her stake, Faith dropped to the ground just in time, rolling over to watch the vamp that was behind her dust.

"I heard him, but he was, different." Faith mused standing up.

"I know." Buffy mumbled, reaching for her stake in the dust, but Faith knocked her to the ground, falling on top of her.

"Son of a bitch!" Faith growled looking up, at the vampire that had hit her. She rolled off Buffy, and she could see the back of Faith's tank top in tatters, and already bleeding. She looked over at the thing that did it. It was a tall vampire, and he looked strong. These were not ordinary Tuesday Night Sunnydale Vampires. On his right hand he wore a glove of claws. "Who the fuck do you think you are, Freddy?" Faith snapped, moving forward to punch him in the jaw. Buffy noticed more blood on Faith, but it didn't look too bad. Faith could hold her own still. Another vampire came at them from the woods and Buffy attacked. She was kicking and knocking around her opponent, when she heard a scream. She turned and saw Faith on the ground, clawing into the earth, trying to pull herself forward, getting away from the vampire above her. Buffy spun and staked her vamp, and then made a rush for the other.

"You shouldn't play with knives, unless you know how to use them." Buffy sneered, shoving her stake through the vampire's back, and he dusted, all over Faith. She could see that he had gotten her again on the back, but these cuts looked deeper. "Are you okay?"

"Five by Five, B. Just need a second to catch my breath." Faith said, rolling over onto her back, and wincing.

"I think I need to take care of that." Buffy said.

"Don't bother. It will be fine in the morning." Faith sat up slowly.

"Get over yourself Faith. It looks bad. Come on." She pulled the younger girl up by her arm, and they walked slowly back to Buffy's house.

*****

Why couldn't she just let me deal with this on my own? I didn't want her touching me. God, why couldn't I have the balls to push her away and run home? Sometimes I was too weak for my own good.

She ordered me to lie down on the living room floor, and I complied. I felt her cut away the shirt on my back, the scissors were cold. Then she smoothed the useless material away, and I heard her gasp.

"What happened?" Her voice was shocked, and I was lost. Um, duh?

"Got attacked, you were there." I snapped.

"No I mean these other scars, what are they from?" I felt her moving something wet over my skin. Shit, I had forgotten about the scars. Funny how when you can't see them, you forget. Now how in the hell would I explain them to her? Fuck it, why should I even bother.

"Oh, nothing much. Forget about it."

"Don't shut me out again." She snapped.

"I am not shutting you out," I answered back. I wasn't.

*****

"I feel like you are, Faith."

<She ran her fingers through her dark hair, "When are you gonna learn B? It doesn't matter what kind of vibe you get off a person because nine times out of ten, the face they're showing you is not the real one."

"I guess you know a lot about that." Buffy snapped back, realizing she knew nothing about the girl before her.>

"Show me the real you, Faith." Buffy said softly, coming back from her memories. She moved the cotton swab gently over the fresh cuts, and some of the old raised scars that marked the otherwise perfect skin.

"Why? What do you care?" Faith voice was quiet too.

"I just do." Buffy said, and she did care, and she didn't know why. That was the best explanation she could give the other girl. She didn't know why, and she didn't want to think about why. She just wanted to know.

"B?"

"Hmm?"

"Can I get a shirt?" Faith asked, and Buffy leapt back, realizing that she had gotten lost tracing the scars with her fingertips, moving them along Faith's skin.

"Sure. Be right back." She stammered and went down to the basement to get a fresh tank top for the slayer. When she handed it to her, Buffy quickly turned around, just catching Faith as she rolled over, catching a slight glimpse of the side of the other girl. Faith cleared her throat, and Buffy looked back at her. She was standing, looking like she was still in pain.

Silence filled the house. Neither girl spoke. They moved to the couch, Buffy giving Faith a beer.

After another minute of silence, Faith began talking. She didn't talk about herself; instead she talked about what had happened to Buffy since Faith had gone away to jail. They talked for hours, and finally Faith sighed deeply.

"Things just went to shit, didn't they?" Faith asked, and Buffy nodded.

"Why didn't you come?" Buffy asked, absently wiping the tears from her cheeks, reliving the past year, hearing it coming from Faith's mouth had really shaken Buffy up. Whereas Giles had laughed with her, Faith had been solemn.

"I didn't know. No one told me there was a problem, no one told me I was needed. B, I was sitting there, waiting and no one came, no one let me know. You think I was sitting there laughing it up in jail? Laughing at you trying to fight a Hell God? I would have come. It made me sick that I didn't know, that I didn't help. God, you died B! You know I would have done anything to stop that from happening. Regardless of all the hurt and pain and distrust between us, Buffy, I would have come."

"You once asked me what you could do to make it better." Buffy said softly, not looking up, not meeting Faith's eyes. Both girls were intently looking at the floor. But Buffy felt she had to say something, she was dying memories and emotions rushing through her mind. "What you are doing now, this time, it is making it better." She set her hand on Faith's arm, and felt the other girl flinch, almost painfully. Buffy moved her fingers away from her hot skin, the soft skin. "I can't believe what you are doing. Some times I find myself wondering if this is all just a dream. Is it Faith? Am I dreaming?"

"No knives here, B. This is all happening." Faith said softly.

"Good." Buffy said. "Faith?" She looked at the other girl, her long hair hiding her face, "Faith?" Slowly she raised her brown eyes, looking into Buffy's hazel ones. There was none of the old pain, the old hate. There was something there, but Buffy couldn't see what it was. "What can I do to make it better?" Buffy asked softly, her eyes wide. She wanted to know, she needed to know. This woman sitting beside her was important to her. In what way, Buffy wasn't completely sure. Part of her figured that Faith might be her key to getting back to who she used to be before she died. Faith could save her from this spiral she was stuck in, this world of extremes of hate and power and lust.

But Faith just shrugged. No words from her lips for a moment. Just a shrug. And Buffy knew. She had lost Faith a long time ago, and probably would never get her back. "I have to go."

*****

They were sitting at the Espresso Pump, Faith cupping her cappuccino, not really in the mood to have it, that was clear by the look on her face when she twirled it around, making the foam swirl. Willow on the other hand was voraciously enjoying her mocha. She wanted to feel awkward about this situation, sitting here, having coffee with Faith. Faith, the girl who held a knife to her throat. Faith, the girl who plotted to destroy the entire town, if not the world. Faith, who switched bodies with Buffy, and tried to ruin their lives again. But she wasn't nervous, not really. There was something about the girl that was comforting, almost like she was there for Willow, that she was spending time, and listening to her, just to help her. She never thought she would have someone willing to do that for her, much less think that she would have someone to talk to who seemed to understand her completely and what she was going through.

"How's the whole, you know, magic thing going?" Faith asked, swirling her cup around again.

"Okay."

"Shakes?"

"Had one last night, but it was over pretty quick." Willow shrugged.

"How about the whole, wanting to kill everyone thing?" Faith looked up, her face like marble, but her eyes were smiling.

"No urges." Willow grinned. "I only wanted to kill," she was whispering now, "Warren, and well."

"Been there, done that." Faith smiled now. "Got it out of your system." Faith set her cup down, pushing it away. "I am glad. That it was a one time thing for you, Red."

"What about you?" Willow asked, sipping the last of the chocolately goodness down.

"Huh?"

"You Faith. How are you doing? Do you want to kill anyone?" Willow could not believe she just said that out loud. It was like holding a raw steak in front of a caged tiger, when the cage door was clearly unlocked.

"You got stones, girl." Faith laughed, but then dropped her smile. "I am okay, only wanting to smack people around. That's better than murder any day."

"How are you and Buffy?"

"There isn't much there, Red. We patrol, and we don't fight. So I guess that is good, huh?"

"Have you talked?"

"Nope. Nothing to talk about." Faith stood up. "So the magic is going okay?"

"Huh, well yeah, I mean I haven't done any since the whole, world ending thing, and I don't have anything to tempt me, really, and well I guess it is all going okay, erm, Faith, where are you going?" Willow asked, watching Faith walking to the street.

"We fixed the magic bit, on to phase two." Faith said, stopping and looking at Willow. "Um, you need to follow me, Red."

"Oh, right, right. Okay here I come." She followed her out, and finished under her breath, "going into the night with an ex-psycho, no biggy, I can do this."

"Hey, Red?" Faith asked as they started walking.

"Yeah."

"Slayer hearing. Don't mumble." Faith smiled devilishly.

"Sorry."

Faith shrugged.

"Where are we going?"

"To do something really painful, but I think it is time."

"Painful? Erm, Faith, pain and I aren't the best of friends, just wanted to point that out to you." Faith took Willow's arm in her hand, and pulled her to a stop, looking deeply into her eyes.

"I want to help you, Willow. I need to help you. But what I am about to do, is going to hurt so fucking much you might want to go back to magic, you might want to destroy the world. But I can't just let more time slip away. You need to do this. So I am asking you, once." Willow gulped, seeing just how serious the younger girl was. "Can you do this? Can you face this now? Has it been long enough?" Willow felt her eyes tearing, without hearing the true words, she knew what Faith was talking about, and she was so terribly scared. Was she ready for this? Could she do this? She looked up at Faith, wondering if the other girl understood how much this hurt her, how just thinking of the name made her heart thunder heavily in her chest, and how her lungs stopped pulling in air. She was suddenly enveloped tightly in Faith's strong arms. She had never been held by the brunette Slayer before, and it felt surprisingly safe, and she knew, even feeling the power in the arms around her, that Faith would not hurt her.

"I don't know." Willow cried, tucking her face in Faith's neck, letting the tears rolling down, wetting the Slayer's jacket. "I want to be strong enough, but what if I can't what if I-"

"Can you trust me to stop you?" Faith whispered to her, and Willow was shocked, to hear the emotion in Faith's voice. In just a few minutes so many things she had never associated with Faith, she now was. Safety, Compassion, Sorrow, and yes, Trust.

"Yes." Willow sighed, pulling away, and looking at Faith, seeing her eyes full of tears, but she was strong enough not to let them fall. Faith sighed, and then cracked her trademark cocky grin.

"Good." She turned and started walking away, and Willow jogged to follow.

"So, where are we going?"

"I am taking you back to my place, Red." Faith said, over her shoulder.

"Huh?"

"For being the smart one, sometimes you run out of things to say." Faith laughed. "Did you ever wonder, when she left you, where she went?"

"I thought, that she well, went back to the dorms."

"You assumed."

"Well, yeah. Where else could she have gone?"

"She called me, and I told her to go to my place." Faith took them down an alley, and Willow tried not to notice what was happening in this alley. But she couldn't stop from seeing a few working girls and their johns grasping each other in the shadows. She shuddered thinking of Tara walking this alley. "At the time I didn't know the neighborhood went to shit." Faith moved her hand around them.

"Oh." Willow whispered. She was still having a hard time dealing with the fact that Tara had been writing to Faith for over a year, and she had never known, never realized it. It made Willow wonder how much more she did not know about her Tara.

Faith opened the apartment building's back door, and held it open for Willow who stepped inside. Faith was walking behind her as they went up the stairs. Willow wasn't sure which floor, so she hesitated on the second.

"All the way to the top, Red." Faith said softly from behind her. Willow nodded and kept going up.

*****

We stopped outside the door, and I leaned against it, looking her over. I was hiding behind the guise of checking her out, but in truth I was judging her, seeing if she really was strong enough to do this. She was shaking, and there was just a touch of perspiration on her upper lip. But her eyes were clear. She was ready. I couldn't even imagine how painful it had been for her to loose Tara, the love of her life. Hell, probably her soul mate. To be talking with her one moment, and the next to be holding her lifeless body in her arms. Red was one strong woman to still be functioning after that. I wasn't even sure that I would have that kind of strength. I probably would have gone crazy, in my head, forgetting and shutting out all reality. Just a vegetable, and I probably would have reveled in it, instead of waking up every day knowing that she was gone, and that all I had were memories, lost moments.

"Looking good, Red." I grinned, but she didn't believe me, she could just see through my bullshit now. Which unnerved me a little. Both her and Tara were quick to see when I was putting on a front. Maybe it was a witchy thing. Hell maybe it was a gay thing. Who the fuck knows. I shrugged, and set my hand on her arm. "This is Tara's place. I only stayed here my first night back, and it was too much for me." Her eyes widened. "The place is full of her magic stuff, and just, well her. I am going to stay out here. This is something you need to do. From what they told me, you went hell-bent and never really had the time to reflect, to grieve for her. You need to do that Willow, you need to accept what has happened." She gulped. "I will be right out here, and if you need me, I will come in."

"How will you know?" her voice was so small.

"I'm the Slayer, remember? Super hearing and all that shit. Plus I can feel the magic, so don't try anything funny."

"But, Faith, if I get all black-eyed and evil, you can't stop me."

"Oh no?" I grinned. "I know how to turn you off." Did I just say that? That was lame even for me.

"You know magic?"

"Enough." I grinned. They still had no clue about who or what I was. I kind of liked still having something to stump her with. "Now." I said, opening the door, and moving back. Her eyes were still locked on mine, and then she turned took a deep breath, and walked inside.

*****

Everywhere, she is absolutely everywhere.

Willow heard the door close behind her, but ignored it, walking deeper into the room. She could feel the white magic tickling at her finger tips, bringing back moments of her and Tara sitting in the dorm, experimenting, using magic together for the first time.

<"Um, Willow? What will this do?"

"Oh, this is the coolest. We will float the rose, and then pluck off the petals.">

She could smell Tara. That unmistakable scent that was her second favorite in the world. Willow's first favorite was the scent they made together. Before she could lie in their bed for hours, just clutching the blankets to her chest, breathing in that wonderful scent of them, of sleep, and closeness, and love.

Being in here, she felt no pull to do magic, no tug of rage. Just peace. Her Tara was at peace. Willow sat lightly on the edge of the bed, and closed her eyes, remembering how happy they were that morning, lounging around, naked, neither wanting to do anything more than be close, to rekindle what Willow was afraid she had lost forever when she had violated Tara's mind, for the second time. The sun had been coming in through the windows, catching the hints of red and gold in Tara's hair as she sat propped against the headboard. Willow remembered, that at that very moment she was sure that Tara was an angel. Her guardian angel, sent especially to Willow from heaven to show her what love truly was.

She was sobbing, but smiling. There were so many moments she would cherish in her heart, the good and the bad, the pain and the pleasure. Tara would always be with her, and she would be strong, she would live for Tara, in spite of her being taken from her. Willow lowed her face to her hands, still sobbing. Nothing was fixed, nothing would make everything better, not magic, not wishes. Just time would ease the pain, and Willow hoped it would also ease the void inside of her, the little piece of emptiness she had. Part of her soul was gone.

*****

I sat for two hours, but finally I couldn't hear her crying anymore. She really surprised me. No wailing to the gods, no freaking magic voodoo chanting. She had just cried. But now it was quiet. I slipped inside, and locked the door behind me, remembering again that this neighborhood wasn't the greatest. I would have to try and do something about that before I left town.

Gently I walked across the room, towards the bed where she was curled, clutching a pillow to her chest. I sat down beside her, and set my hand on her shoulder. She looked like a little kid, clutching it to her like she was drowning. Her brows furrowed. I tucked some hair behind her ear before I could stop myself.

I sighed. When did all the past baggage just slip away? Red hated me probably more than any of the others. But she hadn't said an unkind word since I took her from her parent's house. I looked at the picture of them on the bed table again. I think it was Tara. She gave me this chance, a fresh start.

"Red?" I asked softly, hearing the tears in my voice. I touched my cheek, pulling my hand away to look at the tears on my fingertips in wonder. It always amazed me when I cried.

"Faith, are you okay?" She whispered, sitting up. I couldn't answer, just looked at her and back at my hand. "You loved her, didn't you?" She whispered to me. I nodded slowly, but then gulped air.

"Not like that, Willow, not like you loved her." I wanted to make sure she understood, I didn't want her for one moment to think Tara had been unfaithful.

"I know." She smiled up at me, cupping my cheek, but I pulled away, roughly, standing.

"I, I'm gonna go. I want you to have this place. I already signed over the deed to you and all that. Sorry I should have asked. But this was her place, and it should be yours." Her eyes widened.

"You did that? For me?" I nodded and stepped away from the bed. "Faith?" I stopped, but didn't turn. I wanted to stop crying, but didn't think that I could. "Faith." She said firmer, and I knew that if I turned there would be a resolve face looking at me. Sighing I turned. Yeah, fucking resolve face. She held out her hand. "Stay with me." It was an order, and I shrugged, taking her hand and falling onto the bed next to her. I rolled onto my back, looking at the glowing stars on the ceiling. "Can I tell you a story?" Red asked softly.

"About what?" I asked.

"About Tara." She was on her back looking at the ceiling as well.

"Sure."

She talked for hours, her telling me almost everything. Recounting moments of when they first met, when Red first knew that she felt something more than friendship. Nearly loosing her when Oz came back. They were so happy, and it was nice to hear that I wasn't crazy. That love at first sight did happen to people, not just me. And I was glad for the two little Wicca, that they had been able to love each other, so that Red hadn't had to deal with the unrequited love thing, like I did when it came to B. But I tried not thinking about the past, and what could have been for me; instead I leaned back and listened to Red babble on about Tara, and happiness and love. It was nice, and then when she was silent for a few minutes, I heard her breathing shift, and she was asleep, and I followed her soon after.

I wasn't sure how long I was asleep, but when I started to come back to reality I noticed two things immediately. One the apartment was full of mid morning sun light, and second, Red was half on top of me. I could feel her breath on my jaw. Then she shifted, pressing herself against my side. Slowly she began trailing kisses up my neck. I grabbed her shoulders, but gently pulled her away.

"No Red," I said it softly.

"Why?" She tried to get closer to me again, but hello, Slayer in the house. I held her back.

"You don't want this, not really. What is this about?" I asked, turning to look at her.

"I, I just need to feel something." She whimpered, the sobs overtaking her again. God, was this what it was like for B? So desperate for contact that she would go to the enemy? She would go to another fucking vampire? What had happened to all of them?

"I know, Red. But I can't give you that." I held her tightly to me, just letting her calm down.

"I'm sorry."

"Hey, none of that." Was I coddling her? Jesus what is happening to me?

"Will I ever love again?"

"Honestly?"

"Yes."

"I think you will. You will love someone else. You may not love them like you loved Tara, I bet that you won't, but you will love that someone in a special, different way."

She giggled.

"What?" I snapped.

"Talking to you, about love, in bed...." She laughed harder. "The world did end, didn't it? You would never talk like this."

"Hey, keep in mind here that none of you ever took the chance to get to know me before. How do you know that I am not a romantic at heart?" I grumbled poking her shoulder.

"I doubt that."

"You are probably right. But I know how special Tara was, okay? And I know how much she adored you, so that must make you pretty awesome, and I am sure the girls will be lining up around the block for you." I was trying to keep it light, for both of us.

"I don't know. I have never wanted just any girl before."

"So you fell in love with Tara, because she was Tara." Just like I fell for B. No! No thinking about that. That was over and done with. She kicked me away; I was not going to think about that EVER. AGAIN.

"Yeah. Is that weird?"

"Naw. I totally understand, you looked beyond what was between her legs, into her heart." I smirked, "Shit you are right, this doesn't sound like me. I have to get out of this town, it is messing with my head."

*****

Faith had walked her back home, and had went into the back yard to see what Xander and Anya were up to. Willow went in search of her best friend. She found her in her room, getting dressed for the evening.

"Hey, Will. I was worried when you didn't come home last night." Buffy said, pulling on a pair of loose jeans.

"I was with Faith." Willow said flopping down on the bed, tilting her head to look up at Buffy.

"Oh." The Slayer's face became a hard mask. Willow read into it immediately.

"Not like that, Buffy. She took me to her apartment." Willow sat up, and then slapped her forehead.

"I don't need the by the number details, Willow." She groaned, opening her weapons chest.

"No, silly. When Tara left me, she was staying at Faith's old apartment, you know the one where you went all Beni-Hana on her stomach." Willow beamed.

"Will, you just said her name." Buffy whispered, amazed, that there was Tara's name and a bad joke all in the same sentence.

"I know." Willow smiled. "Everything there is so, Tara." She sighed her name.

"So Faith and you stayed there last night?" Buffy sat beside her.

"Yeah, we talked for awhile. Okay, I talked, she cried a little."

"Right." Buffy scoffed.

"She did. You know Buffy, she is nothing like I thought she was." Willow leaned closer to Buffy's ear. "She turned me down." Willow did not see Buffy's eyes become as big as saucers.

"What?"

"I was feeling, you know, weird and lonely." Willow sighed, and then looked up at Buffy. "Like you were feeling before, you know, when you were with Spike. I just had this need to-"

"I get it Willow." Buffy said standing up. "So did she rock your world?"

"Um, Buffy, were you not listening to me? She turned me down. She said she understood what I was feeling, but that she would not give that to me." Willow said, watching Buffy pace.

"Maybe she is just playing a game," she mumbled.

"Nope, I think if Faith wanted to fuck me, she would have." Willow stood up. "So what is your problem?"

"What do you mean?"

"You pacing and acting all jealous." Her hand went to her mouth. "You two aren't together are you?"

"What?" Buffy laughed. "Don't be ridiculous! Hello, straight here."

"Oh." Willow said.

"Oh? What the fuck do you mean by oh?" Buffy set her hands on her hips.

"Nothing, oh-super-human strength-possessing-jealous-much best friend." Willow scoffed. "I just recall a time when you were all about the Faith."

"That was a long time ago." Buffy said sitting down. "Besides, I pushed her away then."

"Oh, my GOD! Something did happen. I so knew it. Xander owes me twenty bucks." She snapped her fingers, joyously.

"Can you not place bets on my love life?" Buffy asked.

"But," Willow received a slayer growl. "Okay. Okay." Willow sighed. "She is single you know."

"Willow."

"What, all I am saying, is-"

"Nothing. You are saying nothing." Buffy said harshly, and then sighed. "It can't be like it might have been, Willow. Too much has changed, in both of our lives. We are different. And honestly, I can't give her the love she would need."

"But you are all about the love and bonding."

"No. I haven't loved in a long time."

"Riley!" Willow offered.

"Nope. That was comfortable, and easy. Not love. And there so is no love between Spike and I. He was just, well, ready, willing and very able."

"Didn't need to know that." Willow grumbled.

"I just," Buffy continued ignoring Willow's comment. "don't think I can love anyone. There is just way too much going on in my life, I don't need the complications. And even if I could, why would I love Faith? I mean, hello, a lot of fucked up history between us. So what if she understands me like no one else in the world ever could?" Buffy left the room, and Willow grinned, wondering if even Buffy realized what she had just said.

*****

I came back in from outside, not believing my eyes, and not wanting to interrupt. Xander and Anya, sitting on the back porch swing, holding hands and talking, really talking to one another. That boy was actually doing something right for a change, and I wasn't about to interfere.

So, check the list. Xander, washed, shaved and on the way to bliss. Willow, magic free, feeling kind of okay. All that left was the Kiddo, who was so caught up in being a teenager, that there wasn't much to do there. Giles, who was itching to fly from the nest back to his honey across the pound. So that just left B.

I sighed.

Maybe I would just leave her where she was. Tara wouldn't mind, right?

Because the minute B came down the stairs, and I saw her, all I could remember was how much she had hurt me. It felt like a kick in the gut with my own boots. And thanks to her I DID know what that felt like.

<"I know what it's like. You think you matter. You think you're a part of something and you get dumped. It's like the whole world is moving but you're stuck. Like those animals in the tar pits. It's like you just keep sinking a little deeper everyday and nobody even sees.">

And suddenly I am terribly unhappy.

God that sounds so Gone with the Wind-y. But I am.

I know nearly everyone has felt alone. You know, like when you are in a crowded room but it feels like no one can see you. That's a cakewalk to my life at this moment. Sitting in a room with one person, the one person I should feel free to be myself with, the person who is sitting just a few feet from me, but it is like I am completely alone in the room, or worse. I just feel alone, even though she is sitting right fucking there.

She stands up, not looking at me, and walks to the door.

"We need to patrol." She says and walks out. God! She makes me want to strangle her some times. She wants to patrol fine!

"You take the north, I'll take the south, and we can meet up tomorrow at the Box." I said pulling on my jacket.

"Fine."

*****

They were finally gone, Dawn thought happily, as she pulled on her jacket. She wanted to head over to Ronnie's house. He was just so cute, and had been flirting with her earlier at the mall. Maybe things were looking up for her, she thought.

They must be. Willow was back at home, and there had even been some laughs with the gang earlier. And Faith was back. She wasn't all bad. Dawn liked her, and hoped that she would be able to get the old Buffy back, the one who liked to laugh and fight.

She wanted to skip down the street, but remembered she was sixteen now, not an age conducive to skipping. Though she was pretty sure that Faith would tell her to go ahead and skip, and screw anyone who said anything about it. Dawn was grinning madly as she turned down the alley.

*****

What was Faith's problem? Buffy kicked at the turf, moving through the rows of markers. The other Slayer was talking to everyone but her. It felt like Faith wanted to be anywhere but near Buffy when they were alone together. It hurt Buffy. She was used to everyone wanting to be near her, especially Faith. I guess she really does hate me. And if that was the case, why did Buffy care? It wasn't like she cared about Faith, was it? But she was helping everyone out. Everyone but her.

No, the girl was bad news.

"Hello, Slayer." The voice came from beside her, and Buffy turned. There were three vampires, and the one in the middle had spoken. He was tall, with thick black hair, which looked a little wavy. He had hard features, he was probably in his forties when he was turned, which was odd, and usually vamps were turned when they were much younger. His eyes were shadows, hidden under this thick black eyebrows. "Are you ready to die?"

"Could you try and be more original? I've already died, like twice. You think you killing me would stop me from coming back?" She scoffed stepping closer. "And please. Three of you? That's it?"

"We don't need many. You are not in top form, Slayer. Taking you down will be a snap."

*****

I finished up the first sweep, and was turning, making my way to the alleys, and then to the waterfront. A quick patrol and then back the motel, where I would wash Buffy Fucking-Bitch Summers out of my hair. Or better yet, maybe I would pick up something on the way back and completely loose myself. Just get her fucked out of my head.

My head snapped to the right, and all thoughts of sex and different positions left my mind. I heard a scuffle from a block over and rushed there.

What in the hell? I saw three vamps, all pretty big, but one of them had Dawn in a fireman's carry over his shoulder. That girl and her sneaking out would be the death of me!

I rushed forward, stake already in hand as I got to the first one.

*****

"So that the best you can do, oh bushy one?" Buffy snapped, standing up, over the two new dust piles in the cemetery. The taller vampire smiled.

"No, but it was a good test. Got to see you in action." He smirked.

"You want to see some action huh? Well I'm your girl. I just got nice and revved up for you." Buffy lunged forward, but he moved away. He was a fast one; she'd give him that.

"Not today, little Slayer. But soon." He turned and ran. Buffy took two big leaps toward him, but then stopped.

"Naw. Not in the mood." She grumbled and put Mr. Pointy away. She left the cemetery moving on. Still a lot she needed to do before going home.

*****

It all happened so fast that Dawn wasn't sure she hadn't been knocked unconscious. One minute she was upside down, the next she was on her ass sneezing from the cloud of vampire dust swirling around her. She looked up, seeing Faith's scowl.

"Um, hi!" Dawn wiggled her fingers.

"You. Home. Now." Faith was not smiling, and that was not a good thing.

"Sorry?" Dawn offered, standing up.

"You of all people know-" Faith started but stopped with a deep sigh. "Go home Dawn."

"Are you going to walk me?" She asked, wondering why Faith wasn't being over protective. After all Dawn did almost become a vampire snack. Was Faith mad because she snuck out, or because she knew, like Dawn did, that the young girl forgot to fight back.

"Naw, you can make it home. Besides I have some business I need to take care of."

"What? Oh, oh, hungry and - okay see you tomorrow!" Dawn blushed and turned around heading back home.

*****

She noticed the Slayer as she rounded the corner and came into the alley. She hadn't seen her for a few days, and was beginning to worry. People had a habit of turning up missing in Sunnydale. She watched the way the Slayer walked, and sighed, running her hand through her black hair. Nothing was sexier than a woman with power.

She thought that she would walk on by. What did you expect, Jane, after the brush off last time you saw her. So Jane wasn't expecting the hand that shot out at her, slamming her against the brick wall.

But she moaned when she felt the strong hand moving up her thigh, under her leather skirt. Her blue eyes rounded, when she realized that she was already wet. Slowly the Slayer's fingers were moving past the outer lips, brushing her knuckles against Jane's clit, extending just one finger between the warm wet inner lips. Jane jerked her hips, letting out a low moan. The Slayer bit her shoulder, but not too hard.

"God you are so wet," she cupped Jane's pussy in her palm feeling the heat, the wetness. The Slayer slipped two fingers inside of her, pressing her against the wall. Jane began rocking her hips moaning. She grabbed Jane's chin turning her face, locking her eyes. "Don't fake it with me. I'm not paying so don't fucking fake it"

"I, I'm not."

"So I do this to you?"

"Yes."

She moved her two fingers out and thrust in four, feeling Jane's inner walls tighten around her.

"Yes." She closed her blue eyes, feeling those fingers through her entire body.

"Who's going to make you cum?"

"God you are."

"You want to cum?" The Slayer shoved Jane's cheek to the wall, causing the brick to scratch her, but she didn't care, not when the Slayer started licking and biting her neck roughly.

"Yes."

"Then say my name." The Slayer folded her fingers, slowly inside of her, and then grunted as she moved her entire fist inside of the young girl. Her fist completely filling Jane, as they rocked back and forth.

"Ohhhhh" Jane moaned in pleasure and pain, both mixing in her body.

"My name." The Slayer hissed, biting down on her neck hard, marking the young girl.

"Buffy!"

*****

I rolled my shoulders, using them to push off of the alley wall, turning my back on what I was seeing. I hadn't meant to watch, but I got there just as...

That was a side of Buffy I never thought possible. There was so much going on inside of her. Did she even know what she was doing anymore?

Dropping my head a little as I walked away I wondered, who was I more jealous of? Buffy or Jane?

...continued in Disposable Heroes...

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